John Scheinman and filmmaker Jeff Krulik traveled to Bonita one April afternoon to catch up with Go for Gin and Deputed Testamony and visit with general manager Bill Boniface.
Deputed Testamony, winner of the 1983 Preakness Stakes and oldest living winner of a Triple Crown race, died Tuesday morning at Bonita Farm in Darlington.
"He was 32 and lived a good life," Billy Boniface, the farm's manager, wrote in an e-mail. "Up until a few days ago his health was fine but grazing him last night, I could tell he was telling me it was time."
"DT wasn't just a horse...he was family," Boniface added.
In addition to being the oldest Triple Crown winner, Deputed Testamony was the last Maryland bred horse to win the Preakness. He lived his entire life in Harford County.
"Holy cow, it's been way too long," said Mike Pons, one of the owners of Country Life Farm in Bel Air, which like Bonita Farm is one of Maryland and Harford County's more successful thoroughbred breeding and training operations.
"What a horse he was for the Bonifaces," Pons said of Deputed Testamony. "He was the tail wind that put it all together for them. After he won [the Preakness], he changed their lives."
Deputed Testamony shocked the horse racing world when he won the Preakness as a 14-1 long shot on a muddy track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on May 21, 1983. Jockey Donald Miller guided him down the rain in the final yards of the mile and a three-sixteenths race to win by a head.
The victory set off a wild celebration among members of the extended Boniface family. The horse was the son of their stallion Traffic Cop and was foaled at their farm, then located in Creswell. He was co-bred and co-owned and bred by the late William Boniface and his son, J. William Boniface, and Francis Sears, of Boston, who owned the colt's dam, Proof Requested. At the time, William Boniface was the chief horse racing writer for The Baltimore Sun.
Deputed Testamony was trained throughout his career by J. William Boniface, who is Billy Boniface's father. Billy Boniface, currently president of the Harford County Council, was 16 at the time of the Preakness victory.
Although he finished sixth in the 1983 Belmont Stakes (he did not run in the Kentucky Derby), Deputed Testamony won several more important races, including the $200,000 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
He set a track record for a mile and one-sixteenth in the City of Baltimore Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day 1984, in what turned out to be his final race. The record still stands.
In his 20-race career, Deputed Testamony won 11 times and finished second three times. He earned $674,000 racing.
He was retired to stud after suffering a minor injury in that 1984 race. By then, the Boniface family had parlayed the horse's success into the establishment of a new and larger breeding and training facility in Darlington at the present Bonita Farm.
"Everyone is looking for a change-your-life horse, and he was for them," said Pons, who is a third generation horseman. "He was awful good for those guys."
Pons noted that Deputed Testamony's Preakness victory "set the bar high," not only for the Bonifaces, but also for horse breeders, owners and trainers throughout Maryland. Though there hasn't been another winner of Maryland's biggest horse race who was born in the state in the 29 years since, J. William Boniface came close to repeating his training feat with Oliver's Twist, another Bonita Farm bred colt, who finished a close second in the 1995 Preakness and was owned by Charles Oliver, of Aberdeen.
"Deputed Testamony was that special horse we've all been looking for," Pons said. "It's a neat thing they had such a long time to be together."
Boniface family lore said the odd spelling of the horse's name occurred when the late John Clark, a family friend who was a lawyer and who often suggested names for the farm's newborns, proposed "Disputed Testamony" over the telephone, but it ended up being written down as "Deputed Testamony" on the colt's registration form that was sent to the Jockey Club.
Regardless of the strange name, J. William Boniface felt Deputed Testamony showed promise when he won the Maryland 2-year-old Championship race at Laurel Park at the end of 1982, but the colt was inconsistent early in his 3-year-old season, and much of the trainer's attention became focused on another colt in his stable named Parfaitement, whom he entered in the 1983 Kentucky Derby, finishing 16th in the field of 20 starters behind winner Sunny's Halo.
Two weeks later in Baltimore, both Boniface trained horses ran as an entry against Sunny's Halo and nine other starters. It rained the night before and early the morning of the Preakness, and trainer Boniface would later say he had believed Deputed Testamony, who had always run well on off tracks, would fare well at Pimlico that day. He did so well that the huge crowd around the finish line seemed to let out a collective gasp of amazement when they saw the bay colt with the white blaze stick his head in front of second place finisher Desert Wine at the finish line and realized his jockey was wearing Bonita's sky blue silks.
As a stallion, Deputed Testamony sired a number of stakes winning horses, and many of his offspring were successful racehorses in their own right, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region. He was the sire of 20 stakes winning horses and 10 Maryland Million Day winners, according to Bonita Farm's website.
He was retired as a stallion after 19 years and continued to live at Bonita Farm.
On the 10th anniversary of the 1983 Preakness triumph, trainer J. William Boniface, now Bonita Farm's general manager, remarked that Deputed Testamony was an "honest runner," who had always given his best effort on the race track, and he had passed on those traits to many of his sons and daughters.
In a statement the senior Boniface released, the horse's co-breeder, trainer, owner and companion, said: "The son of very modestly bred parents, Deputed Testamony reached the highest pinnacle of racing, a true testament to all horse breeders that anything is possible in the great sport of horse racing. A more courageous horse never looked through a bridle."