Respected attorney, horseman Bonnie dies at 88

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The late Edward “Ned” Bonnie’s influence in the racing industry stretch far and wide, as a respected equine attorney, outspoken racing commissioner and dedicated horseman. Bonnie’s reach will continue for many years and his lasting imprint oin the game was felt two weeks ago at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, S.C., for the Colonial Cup Races.

Bonnie passed away at the age of 88 March 17 in Louisville, two weeks before Balance The Budget won the featured Grade 1 Marion DuPont Scott Colonial Cup at Springdale in the colors of Stonelea Stables. Bonnie’s son Robert runs Stonelea and his wife Julie Gomena trains the stable’s jumpers, including Balance The Budget.

Ned Bonnie’s roots in steeplechase racing go back to the 1950s, when he rode winners in Kentucky and Tennessee and to 1962 when he and his wife Nina established Stonelea Farm in Prospect, Ky. A mainstay on the midwest circuit, Bonnie rode Buckley Man to numerous wins over timber, including at Oxmoor in 1975 and 1977, beating the likes of John Stuart, Mason Lampton and John Cushman and at Hard Scuffle in 1978, taking down the likes of Doug Fout, Bruce Fenwick and Woody Maloney. In the early 1980s, Bonnie guided Hang Glide to hurdle wins at the Iroquois and Hard Scuffle. Sun Eternal, Orchestra Pit and the aptly named Silver Plate provided wins from 1967 to 1990, when much to his chagrin, Bonnie rode his last NSA race, finishing sixth in the High Hope timber aboard La Chasseur. Bonnie won 22 races at the point-to-points and hunt meets, winning at over 20 percent. A sportsman to the core, Bonnie continued in steeplechasing as an owner, advisor and supporter, enjoying the success of Balance The Budget and other Stonelea horses.  

A native Kentuckian, Bonnie gained national prominence as an equine attorney after graduating from Hotchkiss School, Yale University and Yale Law School.

BonnieBuckleyManBonnie helped establish and worked for many years at the Frost Brown Todd law firm in Kentucky, concentrating on equine law and handling the prosecution and/or defense of more than 1,000 medication rule violation cases in the horse business. He tried hundreds of cases before committees, boards and stewards in the racing and show horse world.

Bonnie represented owner Peter Fuller in the famous 1968 Kentucky Derby drug scandal that eventually resulted in Fuller’s Dancer’s Image becoming the first and only horse disqualified for a medication violation. Bonnie lost the case but was well on his way to becoming a “world authority on equine medication and law,” according to author Milt Toby, who documented the ordeal in his book “Dancer’s Image: The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby.”

In addition to his roles as an attorney for some on the biggest names in the horse world – including Earle Mack, George Steinbrenner and Bertram Firestone – Bonnie was a noted sportsman and conservationist. He was central in setting up the Harrods Creek Land Trust and later Oldham Ahead.

Bonnie held numerous memberships and affiliations, including The Jockey Club, the United States Equestrian Federation, the National Steeplechase Association (as a rider, trainer and owner, and later a steward and racing official), a former member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and past member of the University of Kentucky Equine Research Foundation.

Ned and Nina Bonnie were given the Lifetime Achievement Award from USEF in 2002 and in 2016 Ned was inducted into the American College of Equine Attorneys Hall of Fame (an organization he helped found and of which he was a Fellow). Bonnie was awarded the first Edward S. Bonnie Award in 2012, for Outstanding Kentucky Equine Lawyer, established by the Kentucky Bar Association, Equine Law Section. 

An avid foxhunter, Master of Long Run Hounds from 1988 to 2014 and a lifelong outdoorsman, Ned and Nina raised two sons, Shelby and Robert. He is survived by his wife, Shelby and his wife Carol, son Robert and his wife Julie Gomena and four grandchildren Mason, Henry, Virginia and Lilly.

Services were held April 2 at St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Louisville and the family asks in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Edward S. Bonnie Endowment to benefit the Legal Aid Society, 325 W. Main Street, #1110, Louisville, Ky. 40202.