Five Minutes With J. William Boniface, horse farm owner
In 1983, Deputed Testamony surged through the mud to capture the Preakness. He was the last Maryland-bred horse to win the race.
The horse's trainer, J. William Boniface, can't help but think about that Preakness this time of year — and about one he lost 12 years later.
"I could have won two Preaknesses," said Boniface, 74, general partner of family-owned Bonita Farm, the 400-acre thoroughbred breeding and training center in Darlington.
Boniface still speaks reverentially about Deputed Testamony, who was co-owned and bred by Boniface's father — the late William Boniface, formerly the chief horse racing writer for The Baltimore Sun.
Deputed Testamony "is buried here on the farm," the longtime trainer says. "He lived until he was 32 years old. That's long for a thoroughbred. He was a hell of a horse."
Like many in the highly competitive business, Boniface celebrates his victories but can allow losses to nag at him.
In 1995, Oliver's Twist — another Bonita Farm-bred colt and its last Triple Crown contender — finished a close second in the Preakness.
"I really thought the horse was going to win," Boniface said. "He got trapped in and was trying to make his move and couldn't get out. [Jockey Alberto Delgado] was listening to me about waiting for the last second to move out. But, hey, that's racing."
Bonita Farms has 156 stalls, barns, a five-eighths-mile dirt training track, a half-mile turf course, steeplechase jumps and an indoor track. There are 85 horses on the property, 15 of which are in training.
The family calls the farm a "one-stop facility" because it offers breeding, foaling, stabling and training for thoroughbreds brought to the farm by their owners. It also has a commercial vineyard and, in recent years, has served as a wedding venue.
The partnership includes Boniface's son, Billy, a top aide to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. Another son, Kevin, runs the training division and son John oversees the breeding division.
Like the Maryland racing industry as a whole, the farm's balance sheet has been up and down.
"In the late 1980s, things were skyrocketing. Then the other states got bigger prize money, and they offered gaming and we didn't," Boniface said.
Boniface said the family considered selling the farm last year He said the asking price was "a big number."
"We didn't get any takers and we took it off the market," he said. "And now business is picking back up."
Interests: "Horses are all-consuming"
J. William Boniface
Title: General partner, Bonita Farm
Family: Wife, Joan; five grown children