'An Unbelievable Day' In '83

May 03, 1992

Some of the critics scoffed. If Billy Boniface wasn't careful, Deputed Testamony might be delayed in traffic -- and not on the turn for home at Pimlico. Boniface's intention was to avoid much of the pre-Preakness commotion in 1983. So, in a grand plan, he would keep the colt at Bonita Farm (then in Creswell, Md.) and take it on a leisurely trip to Pimlico Race Course the morning of the race.

It was a tactic favored by trainers in England. Boniface, while in the Marines, accumulated leave and used the time to visit New Market, where he observed the British method for conditioning and handling racing stock. What especially interested him was the way horses often were shipped to the track only hours before the race. It meant the colt could sleep the night before in familiar surroundings, eat from the same bins, drink from its customary water bucket and have a minimum of distractions.

Boniface personally drove the van from the Harford County farm and got Deputed Testamony to the track on time. Then he watched from the steps outside the jockey's room, a vantage favored by former general manager Chick Lang.

"It became an unbelievable day," he reminisces. "I was sort of in shock. It was muggy kind of weather, a sloppy track. But Deputed Testamony avoided a lot of early standing around and aggravation." He won with room to spare, 2 3/4 lengths, over Desert Wine, High Honors, Marfa and the favored Sunny's Halo in a field of 12.

Boniface was delayed getting to the winner's circle. He first had to check on Parfaitement -- who had finished eighth while running in an entry with Deputed Testamony -- to see if Parfaitement had been injured. His gesture showed the devotion of a caring trainer who put the health and welfare of a horse first.

Son Kevin took the van carrying the Preakness winner back to the farm while other members of the Boniface family went to Jim and Margaret McKay's home in Monkton for a victory party.

"We walked in," said Billy Boniface, "and the band struck up. I put the Woodlawn Vase, the one they give you to keep, on the table and Margaret said it was the prettiest centerpiece she ever saw. We had a flip of the coin, my father and Francis Sears, the other owner of Deputed Testamony, to see who kept the vase. I got lucky again."

And where is the trophy now?

"I gave it to Dad."

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