On the 22nd January, the infamous gambler returned. With four horses, the Curley man did it again. Eye of The Tiger, Seven Summits, Indus Valley and Low Key all went in for Barney Curley, with an accumulated SP of 9000-1 the night before, 44-1 at lunchtime and an SP of 16-1.
Is this wrong? A moral viewer could easily come to that conclusion, especially if that moral viewer didn’t have a bet on… or they’re a bookmaker. Not allowing a horse to run to it’s full potential in a race, so it will drop in the handicap and its odds will increase is wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to do it. In actual fact, there’s incentive to do so; those that follow the rules get punished for it. Just take Lough Derg for example, who after the handicapper realised he was a bit above average and not afraid to show it, rarely carried anything less than top-weight in good handicaps. Consistently placed horses shoot up the handicap, where – in some cases – they stay for the rest of their careers, while occasional winners slip and slide whenever connections feel it would be appropriate. Continuing to reward dishonesty isn’t the way forward.
Moreover, you have to consider the potential losses the betting industry took. Estimations of how much Barney took are all over the places, but with a possibility of millions of pounds going his way you can imagine the bookies will be seething. Many punters or onlookers may see this as a victimless crime and although it’s obviously not for the bookmakers, it’s difficult not to see their point of view when it comes to the bookmakers’ relationships with racing. Just glancing at the BHA Fact Book in 2011/12 , you can see bookmakers have been putting increasingly lower amounts back into racing [see here] from 2007-2011, although they did increase in the 2011/12 year. This steady fall doesn’t appear to correlate with bookmakers’ profits however, which continue to grow. Looking at figures provided by the large bookmakers in their annual press releases, their profits haven’t experienced such a decline. Why wasn’t more put back into racing? The profits of bookmakers are eight or nine figures just for one company, why are only five figure sums being provided by them all to put back into racing? In a complete turnaround, Barney Curley could actually be symbolised as Robin Hood, with his charity DAFA likely to benefit enormously from today’s gamble. Barney Curley simply found the loopholes of a fractured system and took from the rich to give to the poor.
The notorious Barney Curley has in truth worked miracles. Even with the control he had, horse racing remains, on the whole, an unpredictable sport where literally anything can happen (anybody remember Cotton Mill, or Fingal Bay?). Flat racing is potentially easier, as you’d expect fewer things to go wrong, but he showed he was just as capable over jumps with a ¼ of his gamble, Seven Summits, winning over the sticks. It is a masterpiece in which many people will be assessing, analysing and investigating for years to come. Our sport would perhaps be less colourful without it.