BOOKIES have been left reeling by an estimated €2.5m gamble involving four horses – all with links to legendary punter and former trainer Barney Curley.
The alarm bells began ringing for bookmakers early this morning when money began pouring in for Eye Of The Tiger, Seven Summits, Indus Valley and Low Key.
All four horses were returning from long absences off the track and Seven Summits was the only one to have shown any semblance of form on their previous outing.
Despite having its first run in 480 days, Eye Of The Tiger – which Fermanagh-born Curley used to train but is now handled by fellow ex-pat Des Donovan – got the ball rolling by cruising home at Lingfield after being backed into even-money favourite from an overnight price of 7/1.
Donovan said: "He's had very bad problems...I used to work for Mr Curley and I'm in his yard. No-one wanted to buy him and he said 'do what you can with him'.”
A couple of minutes later in Catterick, Seven Summits – another ex-Curley horse now trained by Sophie Leech – landed the card’s two-mile handicap hurdle under Paul Moloney.
It had been backed from 7/1 into 9/4 favouritism.
By now, punters had latched on and momentum gathered pace, with Donovan’s Indus Valley - which had a morning price as big as 20/1 - sent off at prohibitive odds of 4/6 for the opening race at Kempton.
This was despite a 700-day lay-off and having failed to reach even a place in its four previous outings.
Indus Valley duly scored for Kelly, and then all eyes turned to Low Key, whose Kilkenny-born trainer Johnny Butler is based in Curley’s old Newmarket yard.
Backed from 7/2 into 4/7 for another Kempton handicap, he completed the rout under Liam Keniry. Quizzed by the stewards, Butler stated that Low Key had been gelded since its last run and had benefited from the drop in class. His evidence was noted and the horse routine tested.
With no one admitting to any knowledge of a coordinated plan, it’s impossible to know how orchestrated the venture was.
But the weight of money left bookmakers describing it as Black Wednesday.
Paddy Power said that they alone had been stung for €1m.“This is a weapons-grade coup,” said spokesman Paddy Power.
“They’ve well and truly taken our pants down. I’m only jealous I wasn't on myself!”
Pat Cooney, a spokesman for Bet365 bookmakers, estimated a pay-out of around €2.5m for the bookmaking industry, but said that it could have be a lot worse.
"It's still going to be a bad day for us but very few people were quick enough to get the good odds that were initially available about some of these horses.
"Thanks to online social media, nothing seems to be so much of a secret these days. We'd certainly like the last 24 hours back, that's for sure, but we'll still be in business tomorrow."
Curley – a veteran of successful betting coups - could not be contacted for comment.