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Jockey Forest Boyce, "Queen of Maryland," shines in the male-dominated world of horse racing

"Queen of Maryland" shines in the male-dominated world of horse racing
"Queen of Maryland" shines in the male-dominated world of horse racing 04:54

BALTIMORE - Jockeys are among the fittest athletes in the sporting world. Only 8% of these elite athletes are women, and one of the most successful jockeys in the mid-Atlantic region, of either sex, is Maryland's own Forest Boyce. 

Horse racing is physically grueling and often dangerous. It wasn't until 1968 that the first woman was licensed to ride in thoroughbred races. Today, Boyce shines. 

The 39-year-old woman's career earnings total close to $36 million. A wise man wouldn't bet against her. 

Boyce is not riding in the Preakness Stakes this Saturday, but will be riding in three races earlier in the day at Pimlico. If you're betting, remember her name.  

Most of Boyce's days begin with 'working' a horse for a trainer. 

"Forest is really relaxed and, you know, [the horses] sense that, you know, right away," said trainer Alex White. 

Relaxed, but highly alert. A thoroughbred can reach a speed of 40 miles per hour. 

When riding, Forest is perched seemingly still, yet she's moving rhythmically with the animal.

"It's all balance," she said. "It's a little like dancing. Like, you need to move with the horse if you want to stay with the horse."

Racing is traditionally a man's world, not so much anymore. 

"I've definitely encountered a few men over the years that didn't like my success," Boyce said. "There are very few men that are comfortable being beat by a woman."

And she is doing a lot of beating. In February she had her 1000th career win. So what happens when you win your 1000th race? 

"Nothing," Boyce laughed. "You go back to work the next day."

The Queen of Maryland 

Boyce is known for being among the very best riders on the turf, or grass track. And it was on the turf in September 2022 that she won on West Newton, a horse bred by the late Queen Elizabeth II, just two day's after the royal's death. 

The win earned her the affectionate title "The Queen of Maryland.'

"It was a great feeling and I got calls from all these people," she said. "It was quite a big deal." 

Boyce even got calls from England. 

"There's no other feeling"

If there's a sport with a horse, Boyce does it. And that may be what sets her apart from a lot of jockeys - growing up in a horse family, riding all her life, she truly knows horses. 

"She's a good horsewoman. you know," Alex, the trainer said. "It's just not someone who gets on a horse and goes. She can get off a horse and tell you things that help you help the horse."

Boyce said it's all about communication.

"You're dealing with an animal, not a human, so you can't just say, hey, do this - catch this when I throw it to you," she laughed. "You're doing your best to communicate with one another."

Jockeying isn't an easy living - if the horse doesn't win, the rider gets just over $100.  And whatever Boyce earns, her agent gets 25 percent, and her valet gets 5 percent. 

You've got to win - and she does. But, after spending the day with her, you can tell it's more than a living for Boyce. She loves horses, loves riding and loves racing. 

"There's no other feeling in the world, you know. he energy - it's just amazing."

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