Forest Boyce was not worried when she heard the results of the Maryland Million post-position draw, even though two of her seven entries drew the rail position.
Eighttofasttocatch, the 2011 champion and this year's favorite in the marquee $150,000 Maryland Million Classic, a 11/8-mile race at Laurel Park, has struggled with the inside track recently, but the confident Boyce expects that streak to end today. She's also racing Pagan Priestess from the rail position in the seventh race.
“The last couple of starts we've had were pretty rough; we got into some trouble,” Boyce said. “But those horses, those couple that drew the inside position, I think it will suit them just fine.”
Boyce — a Maryland native who used to gallop horses at the Preakness — has been competitive since being named a finalist for the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2011. With more than 3,000 starts and earnings surpassing $10 million, Boyce has followed the path of other successful female jockeys who have raced at Laurel Park.
Rosie Napravnik, whose 216 wins this year are sixth-most nationally, won the Maryland Million Classic in her breakout 2006 season. Andrea Seefeldt, the first woman from Maryland to race in the Kentucky Derby, in 1991, won at Laurel Park many times before retiring in 1994.
“Maryland is a great place for women riders because I feel like the trainers are a lot more progressive,” Boyce said. “If you work hard and show that you want it, they're willing to give you a shot.”
Boyce said Maryland Million has become one of her favorite events because of its commitment to local horse racing.
“The betting public understands the horses better, the ones that show up on a day like this, because Preakness is so glamorous and everybody wants to party and have a good time,” Boyce said. “There are plenty of people there who aren't really there for the horses but are there to have a couple of drinks, listen to music and watch the horses — which I don't blame them for. It's great that they are there.”
Today, Boyce and Eighttofasttocatch — a 7-year-old chestnut gelding — will try to put on a show for the crowd. Trainer Tim Keefe said the rail start won't be a problem for a horse with one win and two second-place finishes in five starts this year.
“I don't think there's any mystery about the way this horse likes to run his first run, so the rail is not going to hurt him,” Keefe said. “The older he's gotten, the quicker he's gotten.”
And Boyce, who has 66 wins and $2,788,486 in earnings this year, said she will take a hands-off approach while navigating Eighttofasttocatch through his 43rd career start.
“I kind of let him do his thing and stay out of his way,” she said.
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