Sport Horse Racing

Friday 15 December 2017

Eamonn Sweeney: Barney Curley shows 'em punting isn't always a mug's game

This isn't the first time that Barney Curley has skinned the bookies and it probably won't be the last
This isn't the first time that Barney Curley has skinned the bookies and it probably won't be the last

Eamonn Sweeney

God bless Barney Curley. Estimates of the hit taken by bookies when four horses with connections to the most feared punter of them all won on Wednesday have been as high as €18 million. This was a sweet one.

Chances are that a sinking feeling began to manifest itself in the head offices of various bookmakers when Eye Of The Tiger won by nine lengths at Lingfield. The horse had not run for 481 days but was backed in from 10/1 to evens favourite and duly obliged. Next came Seven Summits at Catterick, scoring its first ever win over hurdles. At Kempton Indus Valley, running for the first time in 700 days, was backed in from 20/1 to 4/6 and did the job.

Which left Low Key, returning from a 350-day lay-off in the 6.25 at Kempton. His last race had seen Low Key tail in last of seven but no-one was too surprised to see him prevail by a length on this occasion. Low Key is trained by John Butler, Curley's former assistant at his Newmarket yard and Indus Valley by Des Donovan, who rents his stable from Curley. Eye Of The Tiger and Seven Summits had previously been trained and owned by the Fermanagh man. Overnight an accumulator on the four horses had been available at 9,000/1 and it's believed that over £2 million was won by the originators of the gamble. Further damage was done by ordinary punters getting in on the act when they twigged what was going on.

Paddy Power described it as, "one of the blackest days in the history of bookmaking". You know what this is playing in the background, Paddy? It's the world's smallest violin.

This isn't the first time that Barney Curley has skinned the bookies and it probably won't be the last. He's certainly scotched the notion that big bookie-busting gambles like the Yellow Sam coup he pulled off back in 1975 aren't possible in the brave new wired world.

And you know the best thing about him? He approaches these things in the proper spirit, commenting that, "It's not for the money, it's for the buzz. Beat the system, you know, beat those smart arses. You go into a betting shop and see them robbing these poor fellows with these gaming machines."

Wednesday's coup required planning, intelligence, nerve and guile, qualities which can serve a punter as well as a sportsman. Anyone with an ounce of sporting spirit can't help admiring the chutzpah of a man who won not just for himself but for everyone who knows that the bookies, who turn down bets from the expert but take every last penny from the mug, deserve to have their arses royally kicked.

Kim Jong-Un will have to buy his own whiskey for the next while.

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