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William Boniface named 2013 winner of Excellence in Equestrian Journalism Award

The late William Boniface, long-time racing editor for the Baltimore Sunpapers, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Robert and Anne Heighe Award for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism.

The Robert & Anne Heighe Award is given annually by the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College in Bel Air. The inaugural equestrian journalism award was presented in October 2012 to late Joseph B. Kelly

"We could not be more pleased with the selection of Mr. Boniface as this year's winner," Carol Allen, library director at Harford Community College, said, "especially given the close connection between the Boniface family and Prospect Hill Farm."

Mr. Boniface once lived at Prospect Hill, now the HCC campus, where his father was the farm's manager in the 1930s.

Criteria for the award include quality of writing, reputation of the journalist, impact of the journalist's work and longevity of career.

"Mr. Boniface's reporting and editorial work, over five decades, is well worthy of this recognition," Allen said in a news release announcing the award.

William Boniface began covering races for the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1937 and became racing editor in 1941, retiring in 1982. His first-hand knowledge of horse racing (as a rider, trainer and owner of Bonita Farm, originally in Creswell and later in Darlington) showed in his coverage of the sport that he loved, Allen said.

Steve Dance, owner of Steve Dance Auctions and a lead auctioneer with the thoroughbred sales firm of Fasig-Tipton Inc., recalled Mr. Boniface's impact as a racing writer for a daily paper.

"For those of us who followed the sport, you turned to him first," Dance said. "He was always nice to me and, of course, he started a family which is now into its fourth generation of thoroughbred racing and breeding."

"For years Bill's column 'Bang Tales' and his handicapping prowess made him the dean of Maryland's horse racing community," said Ross Peddicord, a former colleague with the Sunpapers, who is now executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, Maryland Department of Agriculture.

"Bill and his wife, Mary, were larger-than-life characters who cut quite a swath through the centuries-old, sweeping narrative that makes up Maryland horse racing lore," Peddicord said.

Mr. Boniface was born into a "horse family" and began riding and training horses at the age of 10. He attended New York University and wrote for magazines including Horse and Horseman and The Maryland Horse. He also wrote several thoroughbred racing annual reports for The Encyclopedia Britannica's Year Book. During World War II, Mr. Boniface served as a combat correspondent in the South Pacific.

During his career, he reported on more than 40 runnings of the Preakness Stakes. In 1983, Mr. Boniface not only wrote about, but also made, horse-racing news when Deputed Testamony – bred in the name of Bonita Farm and foaled there – won the Preakness Stakes. He was the co-breeder of the colt that was trained by his son, J. William Boniface.

This year's Robert & Anne Heighe Award will be accepted by J. William Boniface during a reception to be held at the Hays-Heighe House on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The public is invited to attend the reception at which Pellom McDaniels will talk about his traveling exhibit, "The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Murphy," that will be on display at the Hays-Heighe House in October. Reservations, because capacity is limited, are required. Call Linda Anthony, 443-412-2539, to request a reservation.

The Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College is at 401 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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