About three years ago, when Bill Boniface named his colt, he went to a lawyer for help. The colt's father was Traffic Cop, his mother Proof Requested. "I asked for a legal name," said Boniface, whose legal name is John. "He suggested 'On The Take.' But the Jockey Club wouldn't accept it."
He settled on Deputed Testamony. Today, the colt with the legal heritage won the 108th Preakness, a race with legal overtones. On Friday, Boniface wasn't sure his horse would run at all. He was so angered by the court decision that allowed Desert Wine and Marfa to run with the drug Lasix that he wanted no part of the race.
For 10 minutes, he considered scratching. "That was my first impression," he said. "But you only get one shot to run in the Preakness. The horse is only 3 years old one time."
You can't run and hide, he decided. Might as well try to beat them. "By God, we did," he said.
Francis Sears, a stockbroker in Boston who owns half interest in the horse (his only horse), said, "It's the best stock I ever bought."
Boniface was home in Bel Air, Md., on the farm he and his father William bought in 1963, listening to WBAL radio, when word came of the judge's decision. He didn't like the way the news was presented; he thought there was an implication that the judge had done the right thing. He called the station to protest. "I was mad, I was really mad," he said.
It took a while to simmer down. "I called the stewards and asked if they were really going to let it happen," he said. "They were in an awkward position. By state law, they couldn't appeal it. They were in the middle, too.
"I was really mad when I heard the judge overruled the commission's decision. How could they know as much as the commission that's been studying it for 10 years? They don't know which way to go. They did it in one afternoon. I think you need authority with the commission. Every time they make a decision, they'll worry about somebody taking them to court."
Boniface is only 41. But he is an old-fashioned guy. He doesn't believe in bringing his horse to the track earlier than he has to--Deputed Testamony arrived by van at 12:30 this afternoon--and he doesn't believe in medicating horses, either. He says he's only had one horse in the last 10 years that needed Lasix. "One in a 1,000 bleed," he said. "That's what makes it such a farce."
Boniface is a breeder as well as a trainer. He worries that decisions allowing horses to run with drugs will mean that "we will produce horses that need medication to win."
And if they had not won, if the medicated Californians had prevailed, would he have appealed the decision that appalled him so? "No," he said. "The owners didn't want to. It would have been a discredit to the race."
It was an hour after it had ended. Boniface was making the rounds of the barns. His new gray pin-striped suit, the one he bought for the Kentucky Derby, was splattered to the knees with Maryland mud. His kids, all of whom work on the farm, surrounded him. His friends at Pimlico, who have known him since he started coming to the track with his father, the former racing editor for the Sunpapers, were everywhere.
He started as an exercise rider and became a jockey. He got a job at Calumet Farms that paid good money: $75 a week, $300 a month. There were lean times. For a while, he lived in a tack room.
Later, he went into the Marines and when he came out, he was 6 feet tall and too big to ride. He says he wasn't learned enough to become a writer. He became a trainer instead.
The family pooled its resources and bought 40 acres in the hill country of Harford County and called it Bonita Farm. It's still a family operation: his wife, Joan, runs the breeding operation with his son Billy, 18; his father, took the horse out to graze last night; Kevin, 16, gallops horses; Kim, 15, works with the yearlings; John, 13, "goes where he fits in" and Bonita, 11, held the trophy. Sears is also part owner.
Now they have 200 acres, four stallions, 100 mares, 35 foals and one Preakness winner (their second try).
He said he knew he had something special when Deputed Testamony set a stake record at a mile at the Meadowlands in December. That's when he decided to "put him on the shelf and go for the classics."
But Deputed Testamony didn't like Kentucky, came down with a virus and a 103-degree fever and finished sixth in the Blue Grass. Parfaitement, Boniface's other 3-year old, finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby, eighth today.
Boniface was nervous then. "After the Kentucky Derby, I said, 'I'm not going to get nervous. They changed pony girls on me five minutes before the race. The girl asked me the horse's name. Would you believe I couldn't say my own horse's name? I was loose today and my horses were looser."
Loose but vigilant. Three hours before post time, Boniface was there, with one eye on his watch, and the other on the veterinarian, to make sure Desert Wine and Marfa got their medication by the prescribed time. "Damn right," he said. "They had three minutes."
Boniface was asked if this win, his first in a Triple Crown race, was a vindication for his way of doing things. "I hope so," he said and smiled.