Forest Boyce, 26, has a chance to become the 10th Maryland-based rider to win the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey.
Boyce, who lost her “bug” Dec. 2, 2010, won 119 races as an apprentice in Maryland last year. She also was the leading jockey in the state for the year at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course with 104 victories.
Boyce would join top company. Maryland-based riders that captured nine of the previous 39 Eclipse Awards for top apprentice jockey are Chris McCarron (1974), Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001), and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002).
The two other finalists for the Eclipse Award are Omar Moreno, who was based at Woodbine in Canada, and Angel Serpa, who competed at Monmouth Park and other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. The winner will be announced Jan. 17.
After just 18 wins at the end of the Pimlico spring meet, Boyce, a Garrison Forest School and Maryland Institute College of Art graduate, moved into consideration for championship honors with 106 victories from June 29-Dec. 18, winning the Laurel summer and fall riding titles.
Boyce credits her support system, including agent Jay “Shug” Burtis, for much of the success. She began working for the late conditioner Mikey Smithwick at the age of 11 and galloped horses for trainer Dickie Small at Pimlico before making her professional debut in the summer of 2009. Former riders Jimbo Bracciale and Mario Verge serve as mentors.
Boyce is the first local rider on the final Eclipse Award ballot since Rosie Napravnik was the runner-up in the same category four years ago. Trainer Richard Small compared Boyce to Napravnik, currently one of the top female riders in the country.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence with her is an honor,” Boyce said. “She has done great wherever she goes. That is my goal moving forward.”