On the race track, jockey April Boag has done it all.
Boag was born into a racing family. Her father, former jockey Gary Boag, and grandfather Darrell Thomas, a trainer, introduced her to the sport she would eventually take as her profession. She has ridden at numerous tracks from the bay area to Portland, Oregon. She even has wins to her credit on quarter horses, appaloosas, arabians, mules and thoroughbreds.
For the better part of the last 11 years, Boag has been in control of her racing career. Even though she has only 35 career thoroughbred wins, 25 of them came in 2012 when she finished in the top 10 in the standings in meets at both the Portland Meadows and Grants Pass (where she finished third).
She was hoping her good fortunes would continue when the calendar changed to 2013. Instead, she found herself in a battle of life and death.
On February 11th, Boag and her 5-year-old son, Diego were in her trailer. Her 12-year-old daughter Brooke, was out with friends, when Boag decided to take a nap. With Diego playing on the bed in the upper part of the trailer, Boag laid down in the lower part. She wasn’t asleep long before she awoke to black smoke in the trailer.
“I don’t know what woke me up, but all I saw was smoke,” she recalled. “My first thought was Diego.”She quickly raced upstairs to see Diego on the bed surrounded by fire, that was already shooting up the walls.
“I grabbed him and brought him outside of the trailer and then went back in for the dog,” she said. “ After I got the dog out I went back in again to see what else I could save, but the fire was coming down the hallway and I had to get out.”
Boag and friends from nearby trailers, battled the flames with garden hoses but to no avail. In a matter of minutes, the trailer was a complete loss. Boag and her kids survived the fire with their lives and only the clothes on their back. Everything in the trailer was destroyed. Boag lost such keepsakes as all her win pictures, championship belt buckles and family pictures. To make the scenario even harder to deal with for Boag, the fire was started by Diego, who was playing with her cigarette lighter.
“It’s real hard to deal with all the emotions,” she said. “Trying not to get mad at him but also trying to make him realize it was wrong to do what he did. We just have to keep moving forward.”
News about the fire that night spread quickly to the horse racing community.What seemed like hundreds of Facebook posts were copied and shared throughout the next few days, reaching racing fans all around the country. Friends were quick to jump to her aid.
Lacey Holliday, a friend of Boag’s, was one of the first people to reveal the news about the fire on Facebook. In the same post, her thoughts turned toward April’s kids, who had lost everything. Lacey asked that her post be shared and gave the ages and sizes of clothing the kids would need. She also took Diego in for a few days while April tended to business. The horse racing community, as it always does, came to the aid of their own. Within days, clothing, gift cards and household necessities, started showing up at the stable gate at the Pleasanton race track she lived by. Fans that knew her, and even those that didn’t, started to donate what they could.
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of people. So far we got a $300 gift card at Target, another 20-30 gift cards at other places and carloads of clothes and stuff,” Boag said. “ One lady I don’t even know, ordered me some boots with her credit card and they are being sent to me.“I’m not the kind of person to accept help from people. It’s hard to accept because we aren’t anybody special but I’ve been around race tracks since I was a kid and so many people have known me for so long. I really don’t know how to thank everybody for what they have done for us.”
Since that day, help has been coming from all directions.
Local mixed breed trainer John and Joy Gish lent her a trailer to stay in while she continued to keep her career focused on the horses. Pleasanton Fair Board of Directors member Frank Imhof, along with another board member and a county Supervisor, began a fund at a local bank to purchase Boag a new trailer. Golden Gate Fields has also stepped up to the plate.
Ray Harris, agent for jockey Russell Baze, will be handing Boag a check for $3,000 to go toward the trailer. It’s money left over from the golf tournament he ran over the summer to benefit the backside at GGF. Also, the jockeys put up a donation form in the jocks room, with many either giving a straight donation or a race mount.
Other organizations, such as the local Moose Lodge (that will be having a fundraiser) and the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, have been quick to jump to Boag's aid. There was also a fund set up in the paymasters office at GGF for any track personnel that wants to donate. In fact, there are far too many groups and individuals to name that have offered the jockey support. While talking to April last week, the one thing she conveyed to me was that she wanted to make sure everyone knew how grateful she was, but she really didn't know how to go about saying it. She didn't have to. A post April placed on her facebook a few days later, says all that needs to be said.
As usual, the race track family has come up a winner.
"I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of the support we are getting ..we are so grateful and blessed..everyone is ok I burned my hair a little and a few cuts on my hands but I was able to get my son out in time and I thank God for that...again thank you so much for all the support.."