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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.
At Jack Quinn’s Teach Scurlog pub in Scurlockstown near Trim in County Meath, Friday 13 December at 8 pm
The lounge was filled with Trim-area heritage activists, who received the book with enthusiasm. The residents are very aware of their town’s importance in history and tradition. The motto is Tré Neart le Chéile — Together Strong — but you also see Ar nDúchas ar nDochas — Our Heritage is Our Hope.
All Thoroughbreds trace their ancestry to three stallions: the Godolphin Barb, the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk. The name of the Byerley Turk (1680-1706) was Azarax. He served as a charger in many battles, was captured as spoils of war and came into the ownership of Captain Robert Byerley, who brought him to Ireland. The horse won a race at Downpatrick on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where he fought with distinction on the Williamite side under Captain Byerley.
Most Thoroughbreds come from the Darley Arabian, only 5% from the Byerley Turk. One of his 21st-generation descendants is the 2013 wonder horse Sprinter Sacre, who won his tenth chase in a row – 14 of 16 races in all – yesterday at Punchestown on his first visit to Ireland.
Curiously, I happened to be writing a chapter yesterday, World Book Day, in my forthcoming (now published https://richardmarshauthor.wordpress.com/meath-folk-tales) Meath Folk Tales that includes a mention of the Byerley Turk, and while watching the Champion Chase I noticed a startling resemblance between the two horses.
Compare the contemporary painting of the Byerley Turk by John Wooton (ca. 1682–1764) with a side-on photograph of Sprinter Sacre standing unsaddled: dark brown, large body, relatively small head. Pity he’s a gelding.
If you can’t find them in bookshops contact me at:
Richard at RichardMarsh dot ie