Almost 40 years after Curley’s famous Yellow Sam betting coup at Bellewstown in 1975 and three years after a similar betting feat, four horses which had had lengthy absences shot to victory at Lingfield, Catterick, and Kempton in what Paddy Power described as a “weapons-grade coup”.
Before bookmakers realised they were facing a potential “multimillion-pound bloodbath” the horses had been well backed at favourable odds. They duly slashed the odds on Eye of the Tiger, Seven Summits, Indus Valley and Low Key — Indus Valley went from 10-1 to 4-6 with one bookie — to limit the damage but still faced hefty payouts.
Paddy Power, which suffered losses of over €1m said “clued-in” punters had weighed in behind the four runners “before a swathe of eager betters jumped on the bandwagon to further shorten the odds”.
The first off of the four horses was Eye of the Tiger at Lingfield which had not featured in seven starts for Curley. After its victory, its trainer Des Donovan said: “He’s had very bad problems and he won’t run under a penalty. I used to work for Mr Curley and I’m in his yard. No one wanted to buy him and he said ‘do what you can with him’.”
The Lingfield stewards held an inquiry into the apparent form improvement and later ordered the horse to be routinely tested.
The next of the quartet, another former Curley inmate, Seven Summits, came first at Catterick.
Donovan was interviewed again by stewards, this time at Kempton, after the third horse, Indus Valley, won. It was the seven-year-old’s first run for 700 days.
The fourth horse was Low Key, trained by Curley’s ex-assistant John Butler. It was its first start since finishing seventh of seven in February. Butler denied any knowledge of the coup, saying it was all “speculation”.
The Yellow Sam betting coup is said to have made Curley a profit of over IR£300,000 (€1.7m adjusted for inflation).
In 2010, Britain’s bookmakers also counted the cost after another huge gamble on four horses — three of which were trained by the Fermanagh native.