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A Gamble Landed - When Barney Curley Socked it to the Bookies.

I wrote this blog just over 10 years ago, live on the scene of one of  the late great Barney Curley's greatest coups. I thought I'd revive it here, how things have changed, even in a decade. Racing is a much poorer place without the likes of Barney, of course, nobody was like Barney, he was an on his own genius. 

                                        Originally posted January 22, 2014 by Simon Nott in Tales From The Betting Ring.

No offence to Kempton. They do a great job attracting plenty of runners and keep the show on the road in all weathers on a weekly basis, but there has barely been a buzz around a mid-week Wednesday as there was tonight. As as I got on course it soon transpired that while I had been driving up the A303 listening to rockabilly the first two legs of a potential bookie-bashing multiple coup had gone in.

My ears pricked up even more when people had put two and two together and come up with my life-long punting hero Barney Curley as the mastermind behind the gamble. Of course I have no idea if those assumptions were correct but was already interested. The story went that the people that got on early at big prices in multiples had the firms that laid them in so much trouble the two runners tonight could well go off odds on. That in itself was going to make the night interesting down in the ring, especially as on of them, Indus Valley had been forecast as around the 25/1 mark in the morning papers.

We didn’t have long to wait for that one to run, it was in the first and opened up at even money. One punter wandered over with the right hump. ‘He’s bloody ruining racing that Barney Curley’ he spat before pointing out that it was unfair for people not in the know because they had no chance. While he was talking there was a flurry of money for the jolly which ensured it went off at odds-on. The irate punter appeared to be about to explode with rage and marched off. At the furlong pole it did look like all the excitement was for nothing, the jolly not appearing to pick up. Then no doubt much to the consternation  of those layers that were happy to lay a shade of odds-on a 25/1 shot it found another gear. There were a couple of guys in the stands who were screaming their encouragement as if their lives depended on it. That reached crescendo pitch as Shane Kelly got the punt horse to quicken up enough to win half a length. At a normal meeting they wouldn’t have been noticed, but at Kempton on a winter Wednesday, you tend to stick out if you back and cheer home a winner.

Books 1

                                                                                                     Kempton Bookies Braced for a Battering

After the race I noticed the irate punter that spoke to me before racing having a rather red-faced word with a journalist. When he’d finished venting and stormed off I asked if he was complaining about the gamble. It turned out that he had been but it wasn’t just Barney Curley he’d been lambasting but had also accused Ryan Price of starting it all and that he’d started ruining racing before Curley.

The last leg of the Yankee punt wasn’t until the fifth, business in the ring appeared to be quite light. Many of the racegoers more interested in seeing the gamble landed than punting themselves, the irate punter withstanding. The ring did manage to get the next three market leaders beaten though so not all bad for them.

The fifth race and Low Key, the final leg of the multiple loomed and there was some trepidation from certain quarters of the ring. One explained that not only did they have to worry about the stick-on winning but the rest of the fancied runners in the field were overpriced. This made them vulnerable for each-way punters looking for value so they could suffer the double bump. One lively punter was in straight away and asked for an each-way bet with the fractions on Time Square at 7/1. He was halved but the bookie that cut him then called the fractions bet to 14/1 (they forget the basics all that watching the machine). Give the punter his due, he corrected the layer himself and accepted the bet.

Needless to say the main action in the ring was around the favourite who had opened odds-on then trimmed with further support into 4/7. There were plenty of outlandish reports of how much the high street and Internet bookies were going to lose as a result of the ‘Barney Curley’ gamble if it won. As the race got under-way those layers on course who once again thought they’d stick the money in their hods and lay a forecast 6/1 shot that had been off the track for an age at odds on were very soon feeling uncomfortable with that decision.

As Low Key took the race by the scruff of the neck at the furlong pole the gamble looked landed. The two punters that had been so vocal in the first were in the same spot screaming the jolly home again. If they’d been loud then that paled into insignificance now. At the line it was Low Key by an easy length and the bookies blooded. The two guys on the stepping literally bounced down them to run to the back of the stands and cheer the winner into the parade ring.

Low Key
                                                                                                                                     Low Key post race

One bookmaker on the rails was very stoic about the result. ‘You have to admire the gamble really, getting four horses that haven’t been on the track for ages all to win on the same day, that’s some feat’. He also confided that the gambles winning didn’t damage them too much. The biggest admiration was for how the protagonists managed to get on in the first place. There were one or two punters who were grumbling, one lady muttered a half hearted ‘cheat’ as the winner unsaddled but the general consensus seemed to delight that the gamble had been landed.

The mystery of the two guys screaming home the punted horses was solved shortly afterwards. It transpired that they are keen form students. One of the horses in the multiple had been in a notebook for some time. When they spotted it was running they also noticed the others (minus the hurdler) had a connection and took a chance that they had spotted a plot and trixied and trebled up accordingly. I was shown a screenshot of one of their accounts, a cool win £63,000 plus take-out. Happy days for them and no wonder the volume control on their screams of support was set to 11. You have to be chuffed that not just those in the know but those that did their homework copped too.

Things could have been a lot worse for the bookies off course.  Callisto Light in the last was another horse that had been of the track for some time, came in for support and won backed from 3/1 into 7/4 on course having been much bigger in the morning. If that one had been part of the multiple too it would have been carnage, it seems it may have been carnage anyway, I look forward to reading the figures when the dust settles.

You have to have admiration for the logistical and training skill of those involved, good luck to them. Who wouldn’t have liked the phone call marking your card from a fellow in a fedora late last night?

BC                                                                                                                                  RIP Barney

(C) Simon Nott

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