John The Bold has eyes for a Derby date Maryland-bred colt gives Boniface hope

April 22, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

The fog was so thick that the form of a chestnut horse was barely visible.

But even through the mist, Billy Boniface could tell that the horse was going too slow.

The trainer picked up a megaphone, and gave the signal.

"I told the jockey that, when he hears me whistling, go faster," he said.

Boniface looked at his stopwatch. Three-eighths of a mile in 41 seconds. That's trotting-horse time. The doubts set in. Maybe he should have worked another horse with John The Bold to make him more competitive. This was way too slow. Boniface started whistling into the megaphone for all he's worth.

Slowly, the big colt picked up the pace, one long stride after another. By the time the colt ran the final two furlongs of his six-furlong workout, he had accelerated into high gear.

Boniface looked at the watch again. The colt finished the six furlongs in 1 minute, 17 seconds, getting the final quarter in 24 seconds.

"If this work was at Pimlico, and not on the deeper track at my farm, it would be a second faster," Boniface said. "This is just what I wanted. Maybe he was too relaxed in the beginning. But he finished strong."

When John The Bold worked out yesterday at Boniface's Bonita Farm in Harford County, it was the horse's last serious training maneuver until he runs Saturday in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

If he wins the Tesio, and wins big, it could prompt Boniface to run him in another week in the Kentucky Derby.

It has been nearly 10 years since Boniface achieved a Maryland horseman's dream. In 1983, he won the Preakness with a homebred colt named Deputed Testamony, the last Maryland-bred to win a Triple Crown race.

Each year, Boniface looks among his young horses for an animal that can rekindle that dream.

This year, he might have found one.

The improbable triumph of Deputed Testamony in a classic race generated the money to build Boniface's farm, a sprawling, 400-acre operation in Darlington that is home to 220 horses.

Boniface hopes John The Bold can provide a sequel.

The gangly colt was slow to come around. He was a non-winner at 2, and encountered his share of problems.

He "hit" badly, racing terminology for scraping the insides of his heels when he ran. It took some special blacksmith work to correct the configuration of his feet.

John The Bold then started winning. First, he won a maiden race at Philadelphia Park, then an allowance race at Laurel. And, in his last start three weeks ago, a $75,000 stakes race at Pimlico named after Deputed Testamony.

John The Bold has the credentials for an intriguing story.

His owner and breeder of record is Margaret McManus, wife of ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, who recently has devoted much of his time to energizing the Maryland horse industry.

Boniface said the partnership that owns the colt also includes McKay and Dan Galbreath, son of the late John Galbreath, who founded Darby Dan Farm and owned the Pittsburgh Pirates.

John Galbreath was a friend of McKay and urged him to get into the horse business.

John The Bold is not only named after Galbreath, but also is from thelast crop of Graustark, the 1966 Galbreath-owned, pre-Derby favorite who broke down a day before the race.

John The Bold is ridden by Larry Reynolds Jr., who, four months ago, was riding full time at Charles Town.

Boniface gave Reynolds, 22, the opportunity to begin riding on the more lucrative Maryland circuit after Reynolds was champion rider at Charles Town for two years.

In three days, Boniface will know if John The Bold will give him theopportunity to win a Triple Crown race.

"Two years ago, we had a colt named Northern Chateau, who we thought would be our Derby colt," said Kevin Boniface, the trainer's son and chief assistant. "He was a son of Northern Dancer, but he didn't work out. Last year, I don't even remember which horse we thought might be good enough.

"But, one thing for sure, each year we'll keep looking. That is what keeps us going."

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