AN extraordinary few hours on yesterday saw bookmakers hit for huge amounts after five heavily-backed horses obliged, at least four of which were believed to have some link to legendary gambler and former trainer Barney Curley.
But leading firms were quick to downplay claims of a "multi-million pound bloodbath", with industry estimates put at around £2million (€2.44m).
Bookmakers had been on red-alert from early morning after latching on to the well-backed quintet, all of which were returning from lengthy absences and struck at Lingfield, Catterick and Kempton.
A spokesperson for Paddy Power said: "This is a weapons grade coup, they've well and truly taken our pants down. I'm only jealous I wasn't on myself!"
David Williams of Ladbrokes said: "It was a bad day at the office, nothing more and nothing less.
"We dodged most of the early morning frenzy but you can't stop moving trains and we got caught up in some of it as the day panned out.
"Suggestions of a multi-million pound bloodbath are probably wide of the mark so we're not going to lunge for the violins just yet.
"Our decision not to price the Kempton races up until as late as possible helped protect us from the worst of it and we certainly weren't exposed to any of the overnight business where most of the fancy prices were snapped up.
"We are satisfied that the systems we have in place at our end are sufficient to protect us as best we can from circumstances like today.
"Ultimately we have a responsibility to keep on top of the rumours and trade accordingly, which we managed to do."
Coral's David Stevens said: "Although we avoided laying some of the larger prices overnight, we did see a number of multiple bets featuring these four horses both online and in shops, and throughout the day this number increased as word of the gamble that was taking place gathered momentum.
"Victory for all four horses has cost us a six-figure payout, and based on our losses we would estimate the industry has been hit for something in the region of £2million, which although still costly, is perhaps lower than some claims."
First up was Eye Of The Tiger in the 32Red Casino Handicap at Lingfield, eventually going off at even-money and cruising nine lengths clear under Shane Kelly.
Now trained in Newmarket by Des Donovan, Eye Of The Tiger was a German Group Two winner but had not featured in seven starts for Barney Curley, the last of which had been when finishing last of 13 at Haydock in September 2012.
The Lingfield stewards held an inquiry into the apparent improvement in form of Eye Of The Tiger. Officials heard from Donovan, who said the horse had been in his care for seven months having previously been trained by Curley and its absence from the track was due to back problems and a near fore tendon injury. Like Eye Of The Tiger, the Sophie Leech-trained Seven Summits was a former Curley inmate and made no mistake in the yorkshire-outdoors.co.uk Handicap Hurdle at Catterick.
Off the track since finishing third in a novice event at Fontwell in June, the seven-year-old travelled well throughout in the hands of Paul Moloney and while long-time leader Copt Hill pushed him all the way to the line, the 9/4 favourite was on top at the post.
Indus Valley, also trained by Donovan, landed the third leg of the four in the perceived gamble in the kempton.co.uk Handicap at the Sunbury track, but the 4/6 shot had to work hard to collect.
Donovan was also interviewed by the Kempton stewards, stating that Indus Valley had been trained on his own following a year's break, as he was known to be a hard puller in his previous races, and was better suited by being dropped back to six furlongs.
All eyes were on Low Key in the final leg, division two of the Kempton For Weddings Handicap, and the seven-year-old made no mistake on his first start since finishing seventh over two miles at Southwell last February.
Sent off at 4/7 and racing in a first-time visor, Liam Keniry's mount was always travelling with real purpose in the mile-and-a-half event and cruised up to take a gap at the quarter-mile pole.
Our Golden Girl ran on late but Low Key was a length to the good at the line.
Quizzed by the stewards, Butler stated that Low Key had been gelded since its last run and had benefited from the drop in class.
William Hill said it saw trickles of money for some of the runners on Tuesday night, coupled with new accounts opening and various permutations attempted across the group of runners, but estimated only a £200,000 group-wide payout.
Spokeswoman Kate Miller said: "We're paying out around £200k across the group, and because we spotted things early on, the vast majority of bets were laid at the shorter end of the market."