If he had fashionable Kentucky breeding and came from a fashionable New York stable, Deputed Testamony would have been hailed as a champion when he arrived in Saratoga.
But because he is an ill-bred colt from Maryland (and one with a slightly ridiculous name), Deputed Testamony has not been a center of attention here. Racing people view him as if he has won $533,800 this year by accident. But if he captures the historic Travers Stakes Saturday, even the snootiest skeptics will have to acknowledge that he has clinched the Eclipse Award as America's champion 3-year-old.
"This horse never gets any credit," trainer Billy Boniface said this morning. "As a 2-year-old, he set a track record and they said the track was frozen. When he won the Preakness, everybody said it was because he liked the mud and got through on the rail. When he won the Haskell Handicap (at Monmouth Park two weeks ago), they said it was because there was a lot of traffic on the rail and he came around it all.
"People keep looking down at him."
Certainly, none of the country's big-name 3-year-olds has displayed the consistency of Deputed Testamony, who has run only two bad races in his life. But those performances were very conspicuous because they occurred in two great centers of American horsedom, New York and Kentucky. Deputed Testamony finished sixth in the Belmont Stakes and he was trounced in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
That ill-fated trip to Kentucky was the only previous occasion that Deputed Testamony had left the friendly environment of the Bonifaces' Bonita Farm and was stabled at a racetrack. He was both disoriented and physically ill, accounting for his dismal performance. That prompted the New York Racing Association's Harvey Pack to refer to him as "the Jewish horse--he can't stand to be too far from his mother."
Deputed Testamony had to leave mom and home to race in the Travers, but he is handling the transition. "This was just too far a distance to come in a day," Boniface said, "so we came far enough ahead of the race for him to get acclimated.
He worked a good mile on Monday. He couldn't be better."
Deputed Testamony will be facing six rivals: Play Fellow, Slew o' Gold, Timeless Native, Exile King, Head of the House and Hyperborean.
Boniface seems to fear none of them, nor any conditions that might arise in the Travers. There is not much speed in the field, which could hurt a plodder like Play Fellow, but Boniface said that Deputed Testamony has the natural speed to lay close to the pace if he needs to.
The Saratoga racing strip was sloppy today and might be sloppy Saturday, but, the trainer said, "Good horses don't have to carry their track around with them."
In view of his versatility, consistency and stamina, racing people ought to forgive Deputed Testamony for being the son of an obscure stallion and an equally obscure mare. Maybe after Saturday, they will.