TV series on Bonita Farm starts Tuesday


April 01, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The show opens with a drumbeat, a horse running, and the words: "In the world of the thoroughbred, one thing you can count on is the unexpected."

The show is "Thoroughbred," a 13-part series about life at Bonita Farm, the Boniface family's pride and joy in Darlington.

The first 30-minute episode begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the cable channel Animal Planet. Subsequent episodes will be televised Tuesdays at that hour through June 19 (and also at 7 p.m. Saturdays).

I have seen the first episode, and let me tell you, this is tonic for our state. With the business of Maryland racing so polarized by mistrust, politics and in-fighting, pull up a chair and watch this show and remember why you fell in love with horses in the first place.

"It gives me goose bumps to think how well they can show off Bonita Farm and horse racing," Joan Boniface said of the film crews that followed the family for 1 1/2 years.

Joan's husband, Bill, the patriarch, steals every scene he's in, of course. But the show also stars the Boniface sons (Billy, John and Kevin) in every aspect of the business: training, racing, foaling, breaking. Horses get hurt. Horses get loved. People get rewarded for their heartache and hard work.

"There were not many weeks during the year and a half they didn't spend some time here," Bill Boniface said. "They spent a God-awful amount of time here. They got the squabbles and all."

"Thoroughbred" features the kind of music and images that make you cry, in a good way. In the process, it tells the story of horse racing through the interesting, photogenic, passionate, and entertaining Boniface family.

After agreeing to open their family business to television, Bill Boniface said: "In the end, we're going to have either the greatest home movie or something the industry can be proud of. I think the latter will be the case."

Back with NTRA

The Maryland Jockey Club has rejoined the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and Joe De Francis, MJC president and chief executive, has accepted a seat on the NTRA board of directors, representing the mid-Atlantic region.

The announcement came Friday, one day before the deadline for filling the position on the board. De Francis chaired an advisory group last year that urged reforms by the NTRA. He also was spokesman for the mid-Atlantic tracks that withdrew from the organization.

"I'm satisfied that good-faith progress has been made in a number of the areas addressed by our committee," De Francis said in a joint statement issued with the NTRA. "We also agreed it was important to keep the NTRA, Breeders' Cup, and Triple Crown as closely aligned as possible for marketing purposes."

Stand by, Colonial

After the debacle before the racing commission Wednesday, when Maryland factions could not agree on when to race at Colonial Downs in Virginia, no one is quite sure what will happen.

"At this point we have no assumptions," said De Francis, who proposed ceasing racing in Maryland for five weeks in June and July. "We're just on standby."

The racing commission rejected the request by De Francis and a task force supposedly representing all segments of the industry in Maryland and Virginia. A majority of the commissioners sided with the leadership of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which did not want to give up Maryland's summer dates and preferred racing in September at Colonial Downs.

Anne Poulson, head of the task force, said she had summoned members for an emergency meeting tomorrow. She said they would come up with every possible scenario for racing dates and then open negotiations with the MTHA.

Along the rail

Delaware Park opens Saturday with $260,000 daily purses and horses from new trainers, including D. Wayne Lukas. He plans to stable 40 at the slots-rich track near Wilmington. ... Frank Russo plans to hold his second annual auction of racing memorabilia and sporting art May 20 at the Timonium racetrack. For information or to arrange consignments, call Russo at 410-592-3111. ... Marguerite Schertle, the mother of Ken Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, turned 100 on March 20 at St. Joseph Medical Center. She worked more than 50 years as a waitress at the Woman's Industrial Exchange in downtown Baltimore.

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