The Muldoon family - Dad Paddy with Charley, Peadar, Daniel, Kathleen, Shauna, Tina and Chloe - with Margaret Duffy, Irish Cancer Society.

A sign: ‘Give it a kick Bonnie’

As ‘Presenting Bonnie’ pressed the race leaders, having followed much of last August’s two-mile-two Bloomfield House Hotel Handicap Hurdle from the rear, the Muldoon family could scarcely believe what they were seeing, let alone what it might mean.

The John Ryan-trained outsider had sorely disappointed on two previous outings. Now, and at 12-1, few had given the BJ Cooper ridden mount much chance in Kilbeggan.

But to the Muldoons from Kingscourt, the appearance of ‘Presenting Bonnie’ felt something akin to fate.

When the six-year-old mare finally jumped clear of frontrunner ‘Turbo’ at the midlands venue’s final fence, riding clear to cross the line in first, the mood of those glued to the screens at Murtagh’s Bar switched from disbelief to unbridled elation.

The Mules & Tools Racing Syndicate-owned ‘Presenting Bonnie’ was, after all, chosen with a specific reason in mind.

The local family had only just buried their mum, Veronica (née Kieran) that morning, better known to pretty much everyone as ‘Bonnie’.

“There were people on chairs, people standing on tables. When the horse crossed the line, the whole place just erupted. Everyone was screaming, hugging each other,” remembers Chloe, the youngest of seven Muldoon siblings. “There were tears, lots of them. No one could believe what happened.”

Lost, but not totally forgotten in the commotion, was the fact that tucked in someone’s pocket was a Tully Bookmaker’s slip with a €155 each-way bet scribbled on it. The winnings, which the local family had committed to donating to the Irish Cancer Society in Bonnie’s name, totalled €2,805.

Bonnie was, after all, and throughout her well-lived life, always “mad into horse-racing”, says Chloe.

That grá stayed with her right up to the end. Just weeks out from her untimely death, on August 18 last, Bonnie even set about organising “one last hurrah”- a Lady’s Race Day event at “the local” - Murtagh’s Bar- “hats and all”.

By then however, Bonnie’s illness, a diagnosis received exactly a year ago today, her birthday, December 22, had taken its toll.

Wheelchair bound and weaker than before, a determined Bonnie put on a brave face and still attended. “That was our last real family day out,” Chloe tells the Celt, a fondness in her voice recalling what is now a treasured memory.

Through their grief, the Muldoons’ shared hope when seeing a horse named ‘Presenting Bonnie’ listed in the 5:45. In their minds, if nothing else, to place the bet would be a fitting tribute.

“We all put out €20 in to the hat. When it was running, and it was dead last, we all thought it was mammy sending us a sign, not to be so foolish,” laughs Chloe. “But then someone shouted ‘Give it a kick Bonnie’, and we all started shouting it. ‘Give it a kick Bonnie, go on, give it a kick’, and I don’t know, but something happened and the horse started to move. There was screaming, crying. It was like a sign, a feeling for us as a family that she was okay.”

The word most often used to describe Bonnie in life, says daughter Christina, and by so many others the Celt spoke with, is that she was a “character”. As for betting, Bonnie, a native of neighbouring Carrickleck, never followed the odds, instead choosing by name or instinct alone.

“She loved fun, always up for a laugh,” reflects Christina. Those simple traits meant the Muldoons’ home at Leiter was “always full”, and with Bonnie holding court from the kitchen table.

“The kettle was never not boiled. In her last couple of weeks, obviously she wasn’t very well. If I had half mammy’s strength I’d be so proud. She carried herself so well, and did everything she could to stay with us.”

Bonnie’s husband Paddy admittedly “wouldn’t know one horse from another”, but always took a joy in seeing the excitement a winning flutter had on his wife.

The couple met at Veronica’s sister’s wedding at The White Horse Hotel in Cootehill almost 40 years before. Even then, Paddy felt their meeting was measured with a certain degree of fate.

Understandably, he misses her terribly. They all do.

Of Bonnie’s cancer diagnosis, he laments: “She put up a brave fight, but it was always a losing battle.”

He adds: “She was a character, a great mother, loved a few drinks, and the chat. She was backing a few horses right up to almost the day she died.”

Bonnie therefore would have seen the good in taking a punt on her namesake. “Definitely,” says Paddy. “She would’ve loved it, the fun of it all. Whatever about the winning, it was great to be able to give something back.”

The Muldoons would like to express their collective and sincere thanks to all who sympathised with and supported the family including the Oncology Unit at Cavan Hospital and Meath Palliative Care Team and Margaret Duffy from The Irish Cancer Society.