Skip to main content
Original Issue

There's no place like home

Maryland-bred Deputed Testamony won a highly medicated Preakness

At 11:30 last Saturday morning, two horses were loaded onto a van at trainer J. William Boniface's Bonita Farm in Bel Air, Md. for the 30-mile drive to the Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore. Deputed Testamony, a misspelled Maryland bred who'd finished sixth in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, beaten 15 lengths, and Parfaitement, who was 16th in the Kentucky Derby, arrived at the Preakness Stakes barn at 12:30. A few hours later, Deputed Testamony went out onto the track and showed the crowd of 71,768 what clean living can do, winning the 108th running of the Preakness by 2¾ lengths. Parfaitement finished eighth, just about where he should have, given his dislike of muddy tracks.

Perhaps Deputed Testamony, a 14-1 shot, was able to score his impressive win because he had spent the days before the race quietly eating oats, hay and water at peaceful Bonita Farm, in marked contrast to the chaos and controversy taking place 30 miles away. The 1983 Preakness almost got lost in a muddle of veterinarians, lawyers, judges, racing commissions, stewards, one ex-President and fungi.

First the fungi: About two weeks before the race, Sunny's Halo, the Kentucky Derby winner, broke out in a rash on his neck and chest. Trainer David Cross Jr. was worried it would spread to the girth area and force the colt's withdrawal. The rash, diagnosed as ringworm, was better one day, worse the next. The colt was treated with an antibiotic and eventually declared fit to run.

Not so easily settled was the question of which Preakness entry could, and which couldn't, use Lasix, a controversial medication that acts as a diuretic and is used to minimize bleeding from the lungs. Regulations for the use of such medication vary from state to state. Maryland racing rules permit its use only for horses that a state veterinarian has observed bleeding from the nostrils after a race or a workout. In Kentucky and California any horse can run on Lasix, and all that is required is a certificate from any licensed veterinarian that a postrace examination has produced evidence of bleeding. When California trainers Jerry Fanning and Wayne Lukas arrived in Baltimore with their horses, Desert Wine and Marfa, both of whom had used Lasix before the Kentucky Derby, they were shocked to learn that their colts could not be so treated before the Preakness because they had not been observed to bleed by a Maryland vet. The Desert Wine people objected, but the rule was upheld by the stewards at Pimlico and by the Maryland Racing Commission. Time for the lawyers, the courtroom, the judge. Barely 24 hours before post time, Circuit Court Judge Robert Hammerman of Baltimore overruled the decision, saying the Maryland Lasix rule was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." (The judge then announced he was attending the Johns Hopkins-North Carolina lacrosse game, not the Preakness.)

On Wednesday before the race, Marfa, the prerace favorite for the Derby, developed a quarter crack on the inside of his left front hoof. On Thursday Marfa's blacksmith was flown in from California to apply an acrylic patch to the hoof. As a result of all this, writers began to call the race the "Drugstore Preakness" or the "Prescription Preakness."

On a lighter note, there was also the hoopla surrounding Flag Admiral, a long shot noted not for his racing record but for one of his owners. The colt, a Maryland-rule Lasix horse, by the way, is owned by Tom Gentry of Lexington, Ky. and Jimmy Carter of Plains, Ga.

After all the distractions, it was a small miracle that they finally got down to racing on Saturday, on Pimlico's sloppy track. The start probably hurt Sunny's Halo more than his rash. In the gate, in post position 11, the Derby winner seemed to be leaning, and as he came away. Common Sense, in Post 10, appeared to move out a bit and bump Sunny's Halo on the rump, knocking him off stride. That forced jockey Eddie Delahoussaye to rush Sunny's Halo up toward the leaders, so that as the field spun into the first turn, he had already lost a lot of ground. Sunny's Halo, however, is a game horse, and he chased after the leader, Desert Wine, before retreating as the field moved toward the top of the stretch. "I think that being knocked sideways could have hurt my horse's confidence," Cross allowed later. Sunny's Halo finished a disappointing sixth.

Deputed Testamony, by contrast, was enjoying a perfect trip. He broke from Post 3, and his 19-year-old jockey, Don Miller Jr., the nation's top apprentice in 1981, kept him on the rail, hoping for a hole to open up or for the leaders to come back to him. It did and they did. At the head of the stretch, skimming along the rail. Miller sent Deputed Testamony after Desert Wine. Once Miller had pushed Deputed Testamony's head to the lead, he kept about his business and won by 2¾ lengths over Desert Wine, who, Lasix and all, finished four lengths up on High Honors. Marfa, another Lasix starter, was fourth. Jimmy Carter's Flag Admiral, by the way, came in 10th.

Miller, a Maryland native, had ridden Deputed Testamony twice before, winning an allowance race last fall at Laurel on a disqualification, then losing the Maryland Juvenile Championship by a nose in late November. Miller was replaced by Herb McCauley for Deputed Testamony's next race, the Play Palace Stakes at the Meadowlands, which he won by four lengths. A week before the Preakness, McCauley had ridden Deputed Testamony in the one mile, 70-yard Keystone Stakes at Keystone, and the colt had won by 4½ lengths. But McCauley chose to ride Parfaitement in the Preakness. Trainer Boniface offered Deputed Testamony to Laffit Pincay Jr. before giving the reins back to Miller.

"I thought at the end of last year," Boniface said after the Preakness, "that we had two horses that could run in the classic races: Parfaitement and Deputed Testamony. But I didn't want to rush either horse into competition too early this year. Deputed Testamony had enough money [$130,534] to start in the Derby, but he ran so badly in the Blue Grass Stakes that we sent him back to our farm in Maryland. He just seemed to hate it in Kentucky, and wouldn't turn [eat] an oat. It was a virus, I guess. Maybe he was homesick."

Boniface is the son of Bill Boniface Sr., who retired last year after 40 years as racing editor of the Baltimore Sun, and together they are half owners of Deputed Testamony. Young Boniface is a trainer who insists that horses should not race on such medication as Lasix or Butazolidin. Therefore, he was furious when, on Friday afternoon, he heard on his car radio that Desert Wine and Marfa would be allowed to run in the race on Lasix. But Boniface had the last word. "The California boys may have won in court," he said after the race, "but we won today."

The half of Deputed Testamony that doesn't belong to the Bonifaces is the property of Boston's Francis P. Sears, a senior vice-president of the Paine Webber brokerage house. In 1970 Sears bought the dam of Deputed Testamony, Proof Requested, for $5,700. In 1979 he bred her to the Boniface's stallion. Traffic Cop, who stands for a mere $1,000 a service. That $6,700 investment turned into potential millions last Saturday when Deputed Testamony became the first Maryland bred to win the Preakness since 1972. The colt is certain to be worth plenty because, although he once ran for a $22,500 claiming tag, he has now won seven of 12 starts and has been out of the money just twice.

Deputed Testamony is the only horse Sears currently has in training. First place in the Preakness was worth $251,200, which will undoubtedly encourage Sears to invest in additional horses for Boniface to train.

In three weeks Deputed Testamony may again take that van from Bonita Farm, this time for a four-hour trip to New York's Belmont Park, site of the Belmont Stakes. Sunny's Halo will probably head for the $175,000 Queen's Plate, Canada's most important race, at Woodbine. Desert Wine and Marfa will return to California. The Belmont, by the way, permits neither Lasix nor Butazolidin. New York is an "oats, hay and water" state. For Deputed Testamony, that's just what the doctor ordered.


A bumpy start slowed Sunny's Halo (left, in shadow roll), but Deputed Testamony (right) and Miller shot through the slop.