Long trip, long shot for Boniface

April 25, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland trainer Billy Boniface is attempting a feat of historic proportions.

At 2 o'clock this morning, he loaded Roger and Jacqueline Schipke's "Cinderella filly" Irish Forever on an airplane at the Newark (N.J.) International Airport and flew with her to England.

On Thursday, the horse is scheduled to become the first American-trained filly ever to start in the English 1,000 Guineas at famed Newmarket Race Course.

"It makes you feel kind of queasy," Roger Schipke said yesterday. "The race has been around for over 130 years [since )) 1860] and no one has ever attempted something like this."

But Boniface has faith in the horse, who the Schipkes purchased for the bargain price of $8,500 at a Timonium auction last spring and then won the Grade III Selima Stakes with last fall at Laurel Race Course. "The filly is genuine. If I didn't think we had a shot to win it, we certainly wouldn't be going over there," he said.

What makes the trans-Atlantic venture even more challenging is that Boniface is attempting to win the one-mile British classic off of works alone. Irish Forever has not raced since she finished second five months ago in the Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park's Autumn Turf Festival. He has gotten the horse ready for the race strictly on works, using the indoor training track at his Bonita Farm in Darlington or the rolling hills of the surrounding Harford County countryside.

"We started her in work on Feb. 15 and jogged or galloped her indoors when the weather was so bad outside," Boniface said. "The Newmarket course is a mile straightaway, but it is downhill in the beginning and uphill the last furlong."

To get her used to the dips and inclines of the course, Irish Forever did lots of hilly roadwork and then worked a mile in company with Joe De Francis' and Karin Van Dyke's allowance filly, Lady Beware, last Monday on a local steeplechase course that has an uphill stretch.

Ridden by Elaina Sheridan, Irish Forever pulled away from Lady Beware and beat her by "about 20 lengths," Boniface said. "She's ready."

Boniface selected the English race "after we got a computerized printout of all the 3-year-old filly turf races in the world. There was nothing much available for graded stakes fillies during the first six months of the year except for such races as the 1,000 Guineas in Europe."

Boniface at first wanted to line up Cash Asmussen to ride. "But he's under contract to Stavros Niarchos, who will probably have a horse in the race," Boniface said. "Then I contacted Lester Piggott. He was riding in Hong Kong. When I finally got ahold of him, he was also booked [on Lemon Souffle, probable second choice in the race]."

Boniface finally hired English jockey Alan Munro after contacting Merrick Francis, son of British mystery writer Dick Francis.

Boniface said: "I know we are considered a long shot. But the winner's share is $185,000.

"A lot of interest has already been expressed in the filly. I'm told to expect to be greeted by television cameras when he arrive in Newmarket. Its going to be quite an experience. In this business, especially, you live by the axiom: "No guts, no glory."

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