A chapter in Meath Folk Tales is devoted to “Barney Curley, modern folk hero” for his audacious Yellow Sam coup of 1975 at Bellewstown, in which he legally took the bookies for the modern equivalent of 2 million euros from a stake of £15,000.
Yesterday, 22 January 2014, a four-horse gamble cost the bookies more than £2 million, to count only the winnings that went to the organisers of the coup. As the odds tumbled from overnight or morning prices, eagle-eyed punters took full advantage. All four horses had some connection to Curley.
Bookmakers Coral said: “Once the name Barney Curley was put into the mix – although there is no official confirmation he was involved – there is no question a lot of the bets placed would have been from punters with no knowledge of any plot but who were simply joining in the gamble.” Paddy Power: “This is a weapons grade coup, they’ve well and truly taken our pants down. I’m only jealous I wasn’t on myself!” BetVictor: “just another well planned and, it would appear, well-executed gamble involving four horses with a direct connection to Barney Curley”.
There is only circumstantial evidence that Barney Curley was directly involved:
Seven Summits trained by Curley until 27 April 2013 — overnight price 7-1, won at 9-4.
Eye of the Tiger trained by Curley until 18 November 2013 — overnight 10-1, won at 1-1.
Indus Valley, same trainer as Eye of the Tiger — 7-1 overnight (20-1 morning with one bookie), won at 9-4.
Low Key trained by a former assistant of Curley — 7-1 morning, won at 4-7.
As Curley said about the 1975 stroke: “It was there to be done — and it worked.”
Postscript: Pipers Piping was evens favourite — in from 20-1 — for the 5.00 at Kempton today until shortly before the off. He hadn’t won a race since February 2012, hadn’t run since February 2013, and had lost his previous 12 races by up to 76 lengths. Why the short price? Another coup was expected. The owner until two days ago was John Butler, the trainer of Low Key. Pipers Piping went off the 6-4 favourite and came in a respectable 7th of 13 runners, only four lengths behind the 16-1 winner, Prohibition, who was owned by John Butler until two days ago and hadn’t won since March 2012. Curiously, the stewards called in the trainers and jockeys of Pipers Piping, Prohibition and second favourite Tijuca (who finished last) before the race for a discussion.