Billy Boniface usually presents the trophy to the winner of the Deputed Testamony Stakes.
The Pimlico race honors his 1983 Preakness winner, the last Maryland-bred to win the Triple Crown race.
But before the race yesterday, Boniface told track operator Joe De Francis, "You better be on hand to present the trophy, because I plan on winning it."
Boniface's prediction came true.
John The Bold, the big chestnut gelding Boniface trains for the legendary ABC sportscaster Jim McKay and his wife, Margaret, charged through the stretch and withstood a late challenge from Frottage to win the 1 1/8 mile stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds by a head.
"I always felt this horse was a sleeping giant, and one day he was going to wake up," Boniface said. "He has been slow maturing, but what a time for a 3-year-old to start to get good."
Boniface plans to run the horse back in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 25. "If he wins big, then we put him on a plane and go to the Kentucky Derby [May 2]," Boniface said.
The win was especially gratifying for McKay and his wife. "We only raise one or two horses a year, and it's been two years since we've even had a horse get to the starting gate," McKay said.
John The Bold is from the last crop of classic sire Graustark, one of the standouts in the renowned Darby Dan Farm breeding operation. The horse is named after the late John Galbreath, a close friend of McKay's and former owner of the form.
The McKay victory ended the winning streak of Nick and Elaine Bassford, who have been winning stakes regularly lately. Their colt, the 4-5 favored Ameri Valay, finished fourth. The horse started from the outside post and was four horses wide on the first turn.
When Ameri Valay did reach the lead on the final turn, he was quickly overtaken by John The Bold.
"The winner came up, challenged me and I was done," said Mike Luzzi, the rider on Ameri Valay.
What Boniface particularly liked is that when Frottage challenged John The Bold in the stretch, his horse refused to give up.
The winner ran the 9 furlongs in 1 minute, 50 4/5 seconds, two seconds off the stakes record set in 1989 by Northern Wolf.