THE STALLION JOB; Fold-up bikes, maps, mobiles and a gang's daring and legal plot to plunder PS3.9M from bookies... with a plan right out of the movies.
A LEGENDARY punter believed to be behind a recent betting coup that scooped PS2million also took the bookies to the cleaners four years earlier in an audacious plot with echoes of The Italian Job. Barney Curley is staying tight-lipped about the day last month when four horses were heavily backed as outsiders and rocked the racing world by all winning.
But betting fans reckon it's odds on that the 74-year-old former trainer was involved. For one thing, he has pulled off similar big wins in the past.
In 2010, three winners on the same day netted him a cool PS3.9million - the biggest horse-racing betting coup in history.
The real story of how he did it has never been told before. A new book reveals Curley, a colourful character who has owned pubs and managed pop bands, assembled a team of betting hitmen.
They had orders to simultaneously deluge a string of bookmakers across London, other parts of the UK and Ireland with bets at long odds.
The plot has been compared to the hit 1969 heist movie The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine, in which a gang driving Mini cars steals a shipment of gold.
Daring For his daring plan, Curley also laid on transport - but he used fold-up bikes. And what's more, his plot was entirely legal.
The amazing story unfolds in The Sure INSIDE STORY ON BIGGEST COUP IN THE HISTORY OF HORSE RACING Thing: The Greatest Coup in Horse Racing History, by Nick Townsend.
It was written with the cooperation of many of the gang. None of those chosen to be in the team were experienced gamblers, to avoid their faces being recognised in betting shops.
Townsend writes: "Few had a precise idea of what would be asked of them. This was deliberate policy.
"They included those who, as civilians, would normally have been setting off to work as doctor, accountant, estate agent, engineer, HR manager, taxi driver or primary school teacher. Here they found themselves in decidedly different guises.
"A mix of heady anticipation and trepidation enveloped them."
A flat was rented in central London and filled with the gang's gear - mobile phones, laptops and printers, the bikes and maps of London streets and the Underground.
Curley had identified Monday May 10 2010 as the big day. It was a date when the sporting calendar was relatively unexciting, offering the undistinguished racing that was ideal for his purposes.
He knew exactly what he was doing, because it was not the first time he had hammered the bookies.
Curley had made a name for himself in racing circles 35 years earlier by scooping a PS300,000 pay-out, the equivalent of a PS2million win at today's prices.
The June 1975 plot was to simultaneously place lots of small bets on an unfancied horse, Yellow Sam, running at Bellewstown in Ireland. Meanwhile the single phone line to the course was swamped with calls, preventing bookies warning colleagues that something suspicious was taking place.
Since then bookmakers have introduced computer systems in a bid to stop it hap- pening again. But by 2010 Curley was ready with a new and similar scheme. He again planned to have punters placing simultaneous heavy bets - but this time using push bikes and the London Underground to race from bookmaker to bookmaker. Four horses, three owned by Curley and one previously owned by him, were selected to win low-key races. One was up against a horse owned by then Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Curley laid his plans dispassionately. He had no qualms about taking big money off the bookies. Townsend explains that the "age-old confrontation" between punters TENSE RIDE: O'Regan and bookies is now so one-sided that "all but individuals of ingenuity and diligence may as well surrender".
Ordinary punters, he claims, "have no chance". Curley says: "If I can hurt the big bookmakers, I will."
He has bet sums of PS50,000 to PS100,000 on a single horse. "You have to be comfortable losing it," he explains. Not even his wife Maureen, who he wed in 1968, is told if he has had a good day or not. Curley says: "I could walk into a room and you'd have no idea whether I'd won PS100,000 or lost PS50,000. If I lose today, no matter. My philosophy is that I'll win tomorrow."
His 2010 multiple bet plan was three years in the making and Irish-born Curley enlisted the help of trusted lieutenants Martin Parsons and Jack Lynch. Hundreds of yankee bets (11 separate bets on all four horses winning) were to be placed alongside trebles in several permutations.
Suspicion Author Townsend points out: "Organising two winners, let alone three, on the same day and at a price to make it all worthwhile, was not straightforward. It is hard enough to send out one winner with a degree of certainty. Ask any trainer."
Lynch prepared the 30-strong team. He says in the book: "I made sure to meet each individual and tell them what was expected." Planning had to be meticul liable to a lous because the bets were arouse suspicion. One false move coulThe plo when one before his by a vet an The ho were Agap Brighton, Wolverham 5.30pm at W Roseau in Only Agap By late m respectivel and 25-10. These o by then, th Team me calm. "On game over hurry," the d scupper the entire plan.
ot did threaten to unravel horse went lame two days race. But it was patched up nd deemed fit to run.
orses backed on May 10 panthus in the 4.10pm at Savaronola in the 5pm at mpton, Sommersturm in the Wolverhampton and Jeu De n the 7.30pm at Towcester. panthus had won before. morning on the day they were ly priced at 11-2, 4-1, 9-4 . odds were sure to dive. But he bets would be safely on. embers were warned to stay "One alarm bell triggered is- relax, be confident, don't ey were instructed. Townsend writes: "The betting team would later draw parallels with that classic caper film The Italian Job. But instead of Minis, these guys had bikes, the Tube and legwork."
As the day wore on, William Hill realised something was afoot and alerted some staff not to accept further multiple bets on the four horses. But at last the bets were on and the team returned to base to watch the races on TV.
Their first horse Agapanthus was by now hot favourite. But it had the gang worried by starting slowly before coming through to win by two lengths. In the next race, Savaronola was up against Ferguson's If I Had Him and was 11-10 favourite.
It notched up its first ever win, finishing six lengths clear. Curley recalls that fuming Fergie later told him: "I backed that bloody horse that day!" But disaster struck in the third. Sommersturm had been seen as a cert but trailed in second. Townsend writes: "Back at base there was silence. Disbelief. This was not in the script." Martin Parsons recalls: "I was desperately disappointed. We'd never get another chance. We had assumed the first three would win easily."' All hopes were now pinned on Jeu De Roseau. Rival Jockey Tony McCoy set a hot early pace on his mount Manjam.
But Jeu De Roseau's rider Denis O'Regan said: "I knew they'd gone too quick, I just had to hang in there."
O'Regan pushed the exhausted horse into a winning lead in the final furlong.
Roar Townsend writes: "In the betting HQ a roar went up. The banker had failed to deliver but the outsider came to the rescue."
Cool Curley, said to have once raffled his mansion home to settle debts, insisted: "I was not the least bit excited."
He also claimed: "No one will ever win as much on horse racing this century."
But last month bookies fell victim to a similar multi-betting coup. Three of the winners, Eye of the Tiger, Low Key and Seven Summits, were once trained by Curley. Another, Indus Valley, was trained by Des Donovan, a business associate of his.
It's no surprise Curley is staying silent. He said of his 2010 coup: "The most difficult part was keeping it quiet. No one told tales out of school."
The Sure Thing: The Greatest Coup in Horse Racing History by Nick Townsend is published on February 27 by Century at PS20.
TENSE RIDE: O'Regan was on last winner
SUPERPUNTER: Barney Curley took the bookies for millions
FOULED: Racing fan Fergie lost a bet due to coup
JUMPING FOR JOY Denis O'Regan on Jeu De Roseau, horse that clinched it
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|Publication:||The People (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 16, 2014|
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