Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, August 24, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/24/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Arlington Trainer Michele Boyce Stays Focused On The Future; Dr. Fager's Big Day at Arlington Came 44 Years Ago Today

"Can you call back in 10 minutes?" trainer Michele Boyce responded when answering her cell phone late last week. "I'm on the phone to (former Arlington jockey-turned-bloodstock agent) Juvenal Diaz down in Florida and we're bidding on a yearling going through the ring at the Ocala sales right now.

"We got him," Boyce said, when answering her phone a second time minutes later. "We got him for $28,000, and we would have gone $2,000 higher if we'd have had to. We've had success racing four foals out of this horse's dam, so we had our eyes on this horse because he had some sentimental value for us.

"Now look at this," Boyce said a moment later. "I'm looking through the sire page and this colt's sire In Summation dead-heated for the win in the Arlington Sprint back in 2007. That's got to be a good sign for us. This is very exciting."

That's because it is Saint Liam's win in this summer's $100,000 Arlington Sprint that sits as the crowning achievement of his trainer Michele Boyce's 2012 Arlington season.

It was Boyce who sent Saint Leon to Gail Vacca's Illinois Equine Humane Center as a layup project after he was re-claimed by Margaret Burlingham, one of his original owners, in the two ladies' effort solely to save to save the horse's life. Saint Leon had suffered a serious leg injury. However, after about a year, Boyce put him back in training and he took to training very nicely. Eventually, Saint Leon came back to the races and won four in a row. He gets the winters off these days, but loves Arlington so Boyce decided to give him a chance in the Arlington Sprint.

"I give all the credit to Margaret for saving this horse for us," said Boyce, "but he's a delight to train and he certainly has rewarded us. As for this yearling I just bought, I can only hope that he turns out to be half as good as Saint Leon."

There have been other success stories for Boyce at Arlington this summer, where she has maintained her annual high win and in-the-money percentages. Terry Biondo and Cherrywood Racing Stables II's Princeville Condo finished a close third in the open division of the $100,000 Illinois Owner's Stakes in his first start of the year in mid-August.

Barr Three LLC, Cherrywood Racing Stable II and Michael Bojarski's Katie the Lady finished second in the $100,000 filly and mare division of that same stakes.

"Both Princeville Condo and Katie the Lady ran very well in those races, and that's all we can ask," said Boyce. "(Princeville Condo) has been training forwardly, and I would say it's a definite possibility that we'll send him back to New Orleans this winter for Fair Grounds' grass stakes series for older horses. Katie the Lady gave us a very good race in that stakes. She tries hard every time."

Not too surprisingly, given her caring nature for all creatures great and small, Boyce started out in pursuit of a career in nursing, and even at the present time she sits on the board of directors for The "Galloping Out" Foundation as it pursues its goal to find homes for Thoroughbred race horses after their racing days are over.

"I liked my nursing career," said native San Franciscan Boyce, "but my best friend married a veterinarian and we were always going out to the races at Golden Gate and Bay Meadows. Together, we got in a couple of partnerships claiming horses and running them out and we also got into the broodmare market when it was doing well. I loved being around horses, and when I met and married my former husband who was a trainer we started taking our horses to various race tracks all around the country. My father was a pilot in the Air Force so I grew up traveling around to Air Force stations all over the world."

Boyce's love of horses continues to this day but, as she puts it, "This is a business where everything can change not only day by day, but hour by hour."

So she looks to her future with alacrity, not only with the horses she trains, but with those who might be success stories in her barn at some future time. That's why she continues searching for the next big horse of every horseperson's dreams.

While conceding from 16 to 23 pounds from his nine challengers, Tartan Farms' Dr. Fager set a then-world record for the mile of 1:32 1/5 seconds in the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park as he was carrying his own hefty package of 134 pounds.

The previous record was 1:32 3/5, set by Ogden Phipps' Buckpasser at Arlington two years earlier.