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Sunday 16 July 2017

Barney Curley Betting Scandal

If you love to bet it's odds on you've heard of Barney Curley. 

He's a kind of infamous character the bookmakers would rather forget because in his time as a professional gambler, racehorse owner and horse trainer he's won some serious wonga with his timely betting coups. 

Now I don't know if the Irish man has an interest in playing online fairy tale slots but if he did you can guarantee he wouldn't need a lucky four-leafed clover in his wallet to come out a winner. 

For instance, do you remember this infamous betting plot? It's more akin to a chapter of a Dick Francis novel than the Mills & Boon of supposed modern-day gamblers. 


Yellow Sam Betting Coup

Go back to Bellewstown, 26th June 1975. Professional gambler Barney Curley was going to have it right off with lowly handicapper named Yellow Sam. 

In fact, this would be one of the biggest betting coups in Irish history. 

Curley bought Yellow Sam, named after his father who was known by the same moniker at the races. To get the horse well handicapped, it was run several times in unfavourable conditions. 

He prepared a plan not only for the horse to win but for people to place bets. 

On the big day, Yellow Sam was priced 20-1

Curley knew that if a large sum of money was bet on the horse that the price would be much shorter by the start. This is where he played his master hand. The racecourse had just two phone lines: one for the general public and the other line belonging to the Extel betting company which supplied racing data [betting odds] to betting shops. Mysteriously, the Extel telephone was put out of use [the line was cut] and the only phone left to detail the betting odds to shops was the public phone. 

Friends, acquaintances, and paid accomplices waited in bookmakers across Ireland ready to place bets at 20-1. They bet £50 - £300. Curley called half a dozen people at 2:50, ten minutes before the race and instructed them to call ten or twenty others. Curley invested £15,000, his entire life savings. 

Fifteen minutes before the bets were placed, a good friend of Curley's Benny O'Hanlon, who was in on the plot, walked into the public telephone box at the course and pretended to call a dying aunt in a non-existent hospital. His act was so convincing that a queue of people allowed him to continue to use the phone. 

Off-course bookmakers were desperately trying to contact the course to lay off their huge liabilities. 

They got an engaged tone! 

Neither could they lay their bets or ''horrendously'' change the price which stuck firmly at 20-1. 

Curley knew that if he was seen at the course it would catch the bookmakers' attention so he hid in a thicket of gorse in the centre of the racecourse. 

Yellow Sam won the hurdle race by two and a half lengths. He won IR£300,000. In today's money that is worth £1.7M. 

Bookmakers knew they had been stung by a sophisticated gambling plot but as there was nothing illegal about the win they had to pay out. They paid out in single notes filling 108 bags. 

The following day, the story made headline news around the world and is still recognised as one of the biggest betting coups in the history of racing.