A June Bride, And Bridle The 'Best Man' Won, And Won Their Hearts

Posted: June 05, 1988

STANTON, Del. — Terry Lee Griffith wasn't just horsing around when he suggested to his fiancee that his favorite thoroughbred would make a fine best man at their wedding.

After all, The Maltese Cat, a chestnut gelding affectionately known as ''The Cat," had cost Griffith about $300 in 1986 and has since won him more than $40,000, rescuing the horse trainer from near-bankruptcy.

"He's a loving horse. He's been good to me. He gives you everything he's got - he really tries when he runs," said Griffith, 44, of Newark, Del., who works at Delaware Park.

When his fiancee, Kathleen Boutin, 26, of Hockessin, Del., enthusiastically agreed to the idea, Griffith knew he was marrying the right woman.

So, with The Cat standing by and looking natty in a top hat and custom-made tuxedo, complete with bow-tie and boutonniere, the pair was married yesterday in a paddock behind the clubhouse at Delaware Park.

Curious racegoers lined the second-floor balcony of the clubhouse and peered over the hedges surrounding the shaded paddock to watch the ceremony, which began after The Cat began stomping impatiently and twitching his ears, which protruded through holes in the top hat.

"This horse is special," said Boutin, who also works with horses at the racetrack.

"He's a funny kind of horse, very smart and very intelligent. He loves attention, and he seems to know what's going on," she said.

Because The Cat had no pockets in his tuxedo to hold Boutin's wedding ring and, frankly, would have had some difficulty handing Griffith the ring at the right time, David Malatesta, a friend of Griffith's from Hockessin, agreed to do "all the humanly things" required of a best man.

"He's The Cat's interpreter, and The Cat will look on to make sure things are done properly," said Griffith before the wedding.

Griffith bought The Cat and three other horses for a total of $1,250. He sold the other animals but kept The Cat, even though the horse was suffering

from "shipping fever," a disease that sometimes develops into pneumonia or causes infirmity in a horse's legs.

The Cat recovered completely, going on to compete successfully in claiming races around the country.

"He's what I call a reject that turned out all right," said Griffith.

Once The Cat was claimed for $5,000 after a race. After six weeks without him, Griffith claimed him back.

"The Cat just has a kind of spirit about him. He was so cheap, yet he does so well. He puts his heart into it every time he races," said Boutin, who spent much of her 10-minute wedding ceremony staring at the horse and grinning

broadly.

It was entirely fitting that the horse stand as best man.

"People are getting a laugh out of it, but they see the meaning in it," she said.

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