independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Who is Barney Curley?

Barney Curley

Barney Curley came back into the public consciousness with a bang yesterday after horses linked to the gambler took the bookies for millions.

Various figures have been bandied about since the four horse accumulator came in and while it can never be known, it has has put a huge dent in bookmakers' coffers on what otherwise appeared to be a run-of-the-mill Wednesday’s racing.

It turned out to be yet another big pay out for the man who has been the scourge of bookmakers near and far for decades.

Now in his 70s, the Fermanagh native has an air of mystery given the fact he tends to shy away from the public and interviews are few and far between. Generally he lets his winnings do the talking.

Yesterday bookmakers were forced to pay out of millions as a result of an audacious betting coup landed on four horses at three different British racecourses, with all four having close links or associations to Curley.

At overnight prices, an accumulator on the four horses was paying in excess of 9,000-1, although only a return of only 17½-1 would have been received for bets struck at SP as bookmakers scurried to shorten the horses and limit their escalating liabilities.

The four winners, who had all been off the racecourse for periods of between 225 and 700 days were the Des Donovan-trained Eye Of The Tiger, a former German import for Curley who hacked up by nine lengths in a handicap at Lingfield

Paddy Power reported losses of more than €1 million, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

"It's not for the money," Curley said in a rare interview with the Independent in 2010.. "It's for the buzz. Beat the system, you know, beat those bookmakers, those smart-arses. You go into a betting shop and see them robbing these poor fellows, with these gaming machines."

His latest windfall –  the figures are wide-ranging - will come of little surprise to anyone within the industry. He has been hoodwinking the bookies for quite some time.

Back in 1975 there was only one telephone at the country track at Bellewstown, where Curley had a friend act out a prolonged call to a fictional dying aunt, so blocking desperate attempts by off-course bookmakers to cut his horse Yellow Sam's starting price. It was the start of things to come.

Since then his success has reached legendary proportions, winning him respect worldwide. Sheikh Mohammed once facilitated a donation of £2.5m to his charity while trainers have flocked for his opinion throughout his career.

In 2010 Curley was the mastermind behind a coup that netted more than a £1million. That too involved four horses, three trained by him and one that he had previously owned

As Curley has said, it hasn’t all been for financial gain either. Since the loss of his teenage son, Charlie, in a car accident in 1995, his chief purpose in life has been a charity he set up in Zambia.

Indeed he has said on previous occasions that the charity work allows him escape the horse racing world for a time.

"In racing, people always want to get on your arm," he reflects. "The people giving their lives out there, they don't want anything off you. And once you've been out, it draws you back – those children with their big brown eyes looking up at you, with nothing to eat."

But horse racing and gambling will always be his passion.

This latest victory over the bookmakers is just another in a string of successes and Paddy Power summed up just how most people felt when they heard of yesterday’s landmark day which has become known as ‘Black Wednesday’ within betting circles.

"I’m only jealous I wasn't on myself!”

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