If you haven’t heard of Barney Curley – he’s an Irish professional gambler and an ex trainer – this is a must read. He’s pulled off some of the biggest gambles in the history of horse racing!
An unspectacular race at Bellewstown saw Barney Curley land himself a pot of £300,000 off just one winner…way back in 1975! Adjusted for inflation that’s around £1,500,000 to today’s money.
The horse in question? Yellow Sam. Bought by Curley cheaply, he was trained for this one race at Bellewstown and purposefully run in races in unsuitable conditions at other tracks in the mean time, leading to an opening price of 20/1.
Now the big question was; how could he get on £15,000 – his entire life savings – without the price plummeting? Bellewstown wasn’t picked for any reason; there were just two telephone lines for the on course bookies. The private telephone line for the bookmakers was taken “out of action” and a friend called Benny O’Hanlon pretended to place a call to a dying aunt from the only working telephone line. 30 minutes he managed to keep the phone for, and in the mean time Barney Curley was working his magic.
Hundreds of people were sent to bookmakers around the country, with varying amounts of money, and sealed instructions. Ten minutes before the race, Barney Curley called six or seven of them, telling them to unseal the envelope – which in turn told them to back the horse and call six or seven more people. The chain was started, and with Benny O’Hanlon manning the phone the bookmakers were caught completely unawares.
Yellow Sam ran out a gallant winner – two and a half lengths to be precise – and with the bookmakers being forced to pay out on this legal gamble they did, although not happily. The winnings were paid in 108 bags of single notes!
The Barney Curley Four
The second Barney Curley gamble we’ll cover here took place at the start of last year – in the 40 intervening years, the rumours are Barney Curley earnt himself several million from plotted or gambled horses, but this one stands out.
Four horses, all connected to Barney Curley (through former employees or horses he used to train) were entered to run on January 22nd 2014. All painfully out of form and two off the track for well over a year, they were punted off the boards from big opening prices.
All in all, the bookmakers were taken for as much as £2,000,000, plus any side effects of punters joining the train or business lost on those races. After the first two horses won they were forced to slash the second two to prohibitively short prices – think 1/10 on for a horse which hasn’t won for years, or even seen the track!