Horse racing's Triple Crown season is upon us again, starting Saturday with the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, followed two weeks later, on May 20, with the 141st running of the Preakness States at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and then the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
Keep those numbers in mind. Three-year-old horses get only one opportunity to run in these three classic races – there are no repeaters. You win and the victory travels with your name forever more, no matter what you did before or after.
Late last week it was announced that Deputed Testamony, winner of the 1983 Preakness, was voted into the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, along with the champion steeplechase racer Good Night Shirt. The hall was established in 2013 to recognize the accomplishments of thoroughbreds born in Maryland.
Most readers no doubt are familiar with the story of Deputed Testamony, who is the last Maryland-bred horse to win a Triple Crown race, one of only eight state-breds to win that race and one of only 11 state-breds to win a Triple Crown race period. To that we'll add, to the best of our knowledge, he's one of only two Harford County-born horses to win the Preakness, the other being 1972's Bee Bee Bee whose birthplace, what is known today as Willow Oaks Farm, is on the county line with Baltimore County in Monkton.
Deputed Testamony was born on May 7, 1980, at the original Bonita Farm along Route 543 in Creswell, which today is the home of The Highlands School. He was bred and owned by a partnership of J. William Boniface, one of the farm's owners, and Francis Sears, an investment banker from Boston who was one of the farm's clients. Both the horses parents, sire Traffic Cop and dam Proof Requested, were stabled at Bonita.
Deputed Testamony won the Preakness on a muddy track at odds over 14-1, defeating Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo and 10 other colts. It was considered a stunning upset, though not by Boniface, who trained the colt and believed he was coming up to a big race. Ridden by Donald Miller Jr., a Maryland native from Laurel, that Preakness victory was as Maryland as it gets – and that superfecta of breeder-owner-trainer-jockey hasn't been equaled since.
A Triple Crown victory catapulted the Boniface family's breeding and racing business to another level. They leveraged the colt's success into the purchase of a larger farm off of Harmony Church Road in Darlington, where they built new barns and a mile training track and syndicated Deputed Testamony for stallion duty.
Deputed Testamony finished behind Maryland-bred rival Cavaet in the 1983 Belmont Stakes but went on to win that summer's Grade I Haskell Invitational in New Jersey and he continued to run well until being retired after suffering a minor injury in winning the City of Baltimore Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day 1984, while setting a track record. He was, in the words of his trainer, "as honest as they come" as a runner and his offspring tended to be like their father, workmanlike and successful on the track. When he died at the new Bonita Farm at age 32 in September 2012, Deputed Testamony was mourned as "family," Billy Boniface, J. William's son, said.
Around this time of year, we still like to pause and remember that overcast afternoon on May 21, 1983 when Donnie Miller drove Deputed Testamony along the Pimlico rail to what turned out to be a no-doubt win for the ages. The Maryland Bred Hall of Fame recognition is well deserved.