07/09/2004 12:00AM

Boniface staying optimistic


How can anyone be thrilled about taking on the duties of Maryland Horse Breeders Association president at a time like this? Bill Boniface has asked himself that question more than once since June 30, when he was elected to serve as the 31st president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, the nation's oldest state breeders organization at 75.

"Some people might think I'm crazy," said Boniface, who has been closely involved with the organization for many years and most recently served as vice-president and legislative committee chairman. "But I'm excited about being president. If there's one thing I've learned, it's perseverance."

Maryland faces enormous competitive pressures from surrounding states, including the as-yet uncharted challenges from expanded gaming in Pennsylvania. But Boniface remains optimistic about Maryland's chances for slots.

"Ultimately, I believe we will accomplish something in Annapolis," Boniface said. "The common denominator is that the governor and the legislature really do want to help us. Their issues have to do with expanded gaming and the methods for introducing it. It's important for us to keep reminding them that breeding is a major part not only of the racing industry in Maryland, but also part of the agricultural foundation of the state."

Boniface, 40, steps into his new role with a vast background in the industry. Since age 16, he has managed the breeding division at Bonita Farm, the major commercial establishment in Darlington, Md., originated by his parents, J. William and Joan Boniface. The horse who put Bonita Farm on the map was homebred Deputed Testamony, the 1983 Preakness winner who went on to a long and successful stud career at Bonita.

Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin leads Bonita's current stallion lineup, which also includes the young stallions Mojave Moon (a superbly bred son of Mr. Prospector) and Grade 1 winner Ops Smile.

Boniface, unofficial star of the "Animal Planet" cable TV series Thoroughbred, filmed at Bonita several years ago, has been active in other state equine and agricultural organizations, including the Maryland Horse Council and Maryland Farm Bureau. The oldest of the Bonifaces' five children, he is a second-generation MHBA president; his father led the organization from 1978 to 1980.

Opening of new stallion operation draws crowd

Groundbreaking ceremonies July 7 for the new Maryland Stallion Station drew a strong contingent of horse people and state officials.

"Once again, this land will be used to breed great horses," said Aris Melissaratos, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Bloodstock agent Don Litz has worked to develop the planned facility on 100 acres overlooking historic Sagamore Farm in Maryland's beautiful Worthington Valley. His project is backed by a group of 27 investors, with major support from Lane's End Farm in Kentucky. Other founding partners are investment bankers David DiPietro and Herbert May. The land is under lease from owner Edward St. John.

The first major stallion operation to be launched in Maryland since Northview Stallion Station came into being in 1989, the Maryland Stallion Station will have a 10-stall barn modeled after the barns at Lane's End. Completion date for the facilities is set for Dec. 15, and Litz says he intends to have as many as seven stallions in residence for 2005.

The Maryland Stallion Station already has five stallions, all of whom held court at Shamrock Farms in Woodbine, Md., in 2004. They are:

* Rock Slide (1998, A.P. Indy-Prospectors Delite, by Mr. Prospector), a multiple-stakes-winning full brother to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft; entered stud in 2004.

* Eastern Echo (1988, Damascus-Wild Applause, by Northern Dancer), a proven sire represented by Grade 1 winners Swiss Yodeler and Buddy Gil.

* Jazz Club (1995, Dixieland Band-Hidden Garden, by Mr. Prospector), a multiple graded stakes winner of $417,687; first foals are yearlings.

* Outflanker (1994, Danzig-Lassie's Lady, by Alydar), proven sire from the family of A.P. Indy.

* Seeking Daylight (1998, Seeking the Gold-Play All Day, by Steady Growth), a Grade 2 winner from the family of Canadian champion With Approval; entered stud in 2004.

Jim Steele, Shamrock Farm's longtime manager, will serve as onsite manager of the Maryland Stallion Station during the breeding season.