Horse Racing Can Be Bizarre

Horse Racing Can Be Bizarre
The oddities in horse racing are never-ending and every day can surely be an adventure when hanging around the ovals. Here are a few strange tales that are 100% true but might be unbelievable unless you're a horseplayer.

One Very Bad Day 

On July 19, 2016, jockey Chris Meehan was beyond excited, as he had a live mount in a hurdle race at Mercano Racecourse in Italy and thought he had a good shot at winning.

But his dream of having a winning day (and his face) was shattered when his horse went down trying to clear a fence. Meehan took a hoof to the old kisser in the ordeal and lay in the dirt unconscious with a broken nose and a huge gash on his chin. When track personnel got to him, it didn't look good.

"The starter came over to help me because I was on my back and choking on my own blood," Meehan told the Racing Post in a 2016 interview.

The consensus among the track people there was that he was messed up badly and needed an ambulance immediately. Meehan was probably relieved that the ambulance was on its way and thought his day couldn't possibly get any worse but he would be dead wrong.

"He (the starter) put me in the recovery position with my right leg straight out," he said. "The racecourse ambulance came up alongside us and reversed right over my leg! Then they stopped the ambulance on top of my leg, so I started screaming. My leg just broke straight away. Everyone around me had to push the ambulance off me."

Chris Meehan came away from the spill with a broken nose and a gash on his chin that required 27 stitches to close. But he also received a new and exciting broken leg and a dislocated ankle, courtesy of the top-notch ambulance crew that came to help him but ran him over instead.

"What makes it worse is that my father, brother, and auntie; are all ambulance people," Meehan said with a laugh.

"It's all so bizarre. You just couldn't make it up."

Meehan is 100% correct but what's even more bizarre, is four months after the accident, when he was just about healed up, he broke the same leg in a trampoline accident while training for his comeback. 

Horse Wins, Yet No One Had a Winning Ticket?

On December 17, 1934, at Charles Town Racecourse in West Virginia, a winning payout was made on the second-place finisher. This might not sound odd at first but this wasn't a case where the winner was disqualified but rather a very rare situation where no one had a bet on the first-place finisher.

Sweep Vessel crossed the wire 5-lengths to the good but there was a long delay in posting the results while the confused stewards decided what to do. They eventually awarded the victory to the second-place finisher, Tiny Miss. She was declared the official winner and the stewards ignored the 5-length score by Sweep Vessell, as far as the win payoff.

Sweep Vessell would have returned $1,318.50 for a single $2 win ticket, had there been one. 

The tote board showed Tiny Miss returning $6.80, $3.20, and $2.40, across the board. Sweep Vessel paid $105.80 and $7.60, while Quick Wit paid $2.60 to show.

After the race, the track posted signs trying to explain the weirdness and distribution of the pools but fans were confused and angry, as most had already thrown their tickets away.

There were reports of people storming the steward's office, fights breaking out, and of course, a lot of overturned garbage cans and knee-deep refuse from winning ticket seekers.

Jock Takes 28 Years to Win First Race, Then Immediately Retires

Anthony Knott was a jockey who rode on the southwest side of England for a little over 28 years. In all that time, this poor bastard never won a race. In fact, Knott never even hit the board, as his all-time career-best placing was a very distant fifth-place finish.

But in 2008, at Wincanton Racecourse, the rider found himself in very unfamiliar territory. He was actually in front of an entire field heading for home with only a furlong remaining and it looked like he would finally score that elusive first win.

But old losing habits are hard to break and even though Anthony Knott looked home for sure, he would still make it a challenge to get to the winner's circle.

The crowd at Wincanton was fully aware that Knott had never won a race and they stood, cheered, and clapped as horse and rider went by the stands in front by several lengths.

Knott acknowledged the congregation by waving back, standing up in the irons and pumping his fist.

But as he was celebrating, his antics enabled a horse to sneak up the rail and almost steal away his first victory.

"It was just pure instinct to stand up and give them a wave," Knott said in an interview after the race. "I wasn't thinking straight for a minute. Then I thought, 'O God, it's not over yet,' and I could hear another horse coming up behind me, so I sat back down and got on with it."

After 28 years of riding and finally bagging his first and only winner, Knott immediately retired from race riding right there and then.

"I just wanted to win one race," he said. "I've done that now, so I think I'll leave it at that." 

Big Balls on a Foggy Day

On January 11, 1990, on an extremely foggy day at Louisianna Downs, jockey Sylvester Carmouche was loaded into the gate for the one-mile, $2,500 claiming event aboard his mount Landing Officer.

The horse was 23/1 and sported a dismal racing record.

It's unclear whether the horse stumbled at the start or completely missed the break but the horse and rider were hopelessly left behind.

Apparently, Carmouche pulled up his horse, made a left turn through the infield, and waited for the other horses to come down the stretch.

Carmouche then rode his mount out in front of the pack and won by 24 lengths, only 1.2 seconds off the track record.

But there were immediate problems and concerns with the rider's romping win. Two out of the nine jocks in the race lodged objections and the remaining riders were questioned and not one of them remembers Carmouche ever passing them.

The stewards knew something wasn't right and called the track vet to look at Landing Officer.

He relayed that there wasn't a speck of mud on the horse, his bandages, or the jockey, and Landing Officer wasn't even breathing hard.

A review of the videotape was inconclusive as all you could see was a screen full of fog.

Carmouch pleaded his case but by a vote of 7 to 1, the Louisiana Racing Commission banned the cheating rider from all US racetracks for ten years. He was also arrested and charged with felony theft by fraud.

After a year in the court system, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail but it was later reduced to 10 and a $250 fine.

After 8-1/2 years, the ban was lifted and Sylvester Carmouche made a brief comeback in 1998, and according to Equibase his last his last ride was in 2010.

Yes, folks, everyday can be a true adventure at the racetrack.

By Peter Monaco

Photo: Freepik

Every On Course Gambler Needs A Trusty Old Chromebook

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Every On Course Gambler Needs A Trusty Old Chromebook
It’s lovely to have a day at the horse races. However, the alternative to working at home makes betting on course feel kind of alien. Not only that, but you can be prone to making mistakes by either losing track of time or being caught up in the razzmatazz.

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of razzmatazz?

The amount of times I’ve had a day at Great Yarmouth races and missed a winner is too many. It can be very frustrating. Who is to blame? You’ve guessed it, myself. But that’s the problem of trying to enjoy a day at the races. It may well be travelling via train to your destination. In the pub before heading to the course. Or you simply get sidetracked by the atmosphere and all that jazz. 

I have visions of the late Lionel Blair doing the light fantastic as we speak. 

The way to maintain professionalism at the racecourse is as much to do with your planning and approach as anything else. And it is reason why you shouldn’t take a day at the races as reason to let your standards slip. From experience, I can tell you it happen all too often which is no surprise as there are lots of distractions. 

Planning is key. 

Without a plan of attack we are like a headless chicken. You simply run until you hit something or you run out of blood. Yes, I know that is a rather illustrious depiction of a day at the races. It sounds more like a sacrifice. 

You don’t want to be laid on the alter.

Anyway, I think you get what I’m talking about. 

I purchased an old Chromebook from Wowcher. It cost about £70 including postage. It is some reconditioned number but it works well and the battery lasts for four hours or so. Sure, I could use my iPhone but I hate trying to use that as the text is so small it strains my eyes and the information on the Racing Post and Betfair, in its simplified format, just doesn’t work very well. Also, the amount of times the battery has run down is unending. There doesn’t seem to be a phone on the market which holds a decent charge. 

I can’t be doing with it. 

So the 11.6 inch Chromebook is ideal. 

I have a retro Gola sports bag which is perfect to fit all of the essentials. 

However, you need more than a Chromebook to be professional. You need to be observant and specially those 20 minutes before the start of the race. If you have a busy day of racing selections and potential bets you shouldn’t be anywhere but at home. You cannot do it all and reason why those day’s out need to be picked well. 

I can pair my Chromebook with Wi-Fi data on my phone and sit at the top of the grandstand away from the hustle and bustle. Also, it is an ideal place to watch the horses running down to the start if your bet is at the track. Your trusty binoculars are better than the big screen so another thing to keep in your bag with a shoulder strap. So much better than holding something all day which can be cumbersome. 

If you need to concentrate simply say to your friends or family that you have to concentrate and you will be back in half an hour. They won’t mind as they want you to be professional and enjoy your day. If you back a winner they know they will be for a good drink. 

The handy size of the Chromebook, giving access to all your apps is a brilliant addition to your day at the races. 

I have learned hard lessons far too many times at the racecourse and watching a winner go unbacked is a depressing aspect of what should be an enjoyable day. However, if you plan and are prepared there is no reason to miss out. 

Get a cheap little Chromebook as part of your gambling method. 

It’s the answer to the question. 

Always bet responsibly and with professionalism. 

Photo: Freepik 

The Masterminds of the Track: Top 10 Professional Horse Racing Gamblers in the UK

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Horse racing, often dubbed as the "Sport of Kings," has a rich history and a dedicated following in the United Kingdom. Amidst the thrill of the racetrack, there exists a select group of individuals whose names are synonymous with success in the world of professional horse racing gambling. These masterminds have made a mark not only for their financial achievements but also for their deep understanding of the sport and their ability to outsmart bookmakers. In this article, we delve into the lives and strategies of the top 10 professional horse racing gamblers in the UK.

1) Phil Bull:

Considered a pioneer in the field of professional gambling, Phil Bull is hailed as one of the greatest horse racing minds in the UK. Born in 1910, Bull founded the Timeform organization, which revolutionized the assessment of horse racing form. His analytical approach to racing, coupled with his mathematical expertise, allowed him to identify value bets and consistently beat the bookmakers. Bull's legacy continues through Timeform, which remains a vital resource for punters seeking informed insights into horse racing.

Books: Phil Bull: The Biography

2) JP McManus:

Known as one of the most successful and influential figures in the world of horse racing, JP McManus is both an owner and a shrewd gambler. With a net worth that rivals some small countries, McManus has a reputation for placing substantial bets on his carefully selected horses. His passion for the sport, combined with a keen eye for talent, has earned him numerous victories at prestigious events like the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National.

Wikipedia: JP McManus

3) Alex Bird:

Alex Bird was a legendary gambler known for his unparalleled knowledge of horse racing. Born in 1920, Bird gained notoriety for his fearless betting approach and his knack for spotting undervalued horses. His success on the racetrack earned him the nickname "The Banker," reflecting his ability to consistently turn a profit. Bird's impact on the world of horse racing gambling is enduring, and his legacy lives on through the many punters who have drawn inspiration from his strategies.

4) Patrick Veitch:

Patrick Veitch is a mathematician turned professional gambler who achieved fame for his remarkable winning streaks. Veitch, with a background in statistics and probability, applied a systematic approach to horse racing betting. His ability to exploit market inefficiencies and identify mispriced horses led to significant financial success. Veitch's story is a testament to the power of data analysis and disciplined betting strategies in the unpredictable world of horse racing.

5) Harry Findlay:

Harry Findlay is a colorful character in the world of professional gambling, known for his larger-than-life personality and audacious betting style. Findlay has had his fair share of ups and downs but is celebrated for his fearless approach to risk. His success in backing high-profile horses like Denman and the legendary Arkle has solidified his reputation as a daring and successful gambler.

6) Barney Curley:

Barney Curley was a maverick in the world of horse racing gambling, renowned for orchestrating some of the most audacious betting coups in history. His ability to manipulate the system and execute well-coordinated betting schemes earned him both admiration and criticism. Curley's influence on the gambling world extends beyond his winnings, as he inspired a new generation of punters to think outside the box and challenge the status quo.

That Epic Barney Curley Rant 

7) Terry Ramsden:

In the late 1980s, Terry Ramsden gained notoriety for his extravagant lifestyle and his success as a professional gambler. Ramsden's approach involved using his considerable wealth to manipulate betting markets, particularly in the field of horse racing. Despite facing financial challenges later in life, Ramsden's impact on the gambling world is remembered for his daring exploits and unorthodox methods.

8) Dave Nevison:

Dave Nevison, also known as "The Lord," is a respected figure in the world of horse racing gambling. His success is attributed to a combination of astute race analysis, a deep understanding of the betting markets, and a keen eye for value. Nevison's journey from a struggling punter to a successful professional serves as an inspiration for those aspiring to make a mark in the competitive world of horse racing gambling.


9) Alan Potts:

Alan Potts, although not as well-known as some other figures on this list, earned his place among the top horse racing gamblers through consistent success. Potts, a former bookmaker, transitioned to the other side of the betting spectrum and applied his insider knowledge to gain an edge. His strategic approach to betting and understanding of market dynamics allowed him to achieve sustained success in the competitive world of horse racing gambling.

10) Bill Benter:

Bill Benter is a legendary figure in the world of horse racing gambling, known for his groundbreaking use of computer algorithms to predict race outcomes. Benter's analytical approach revolutionized the industry, and he became one of the most successful professional gamblers in the world. His algorithmic models, developed with mathematician Alan Woods, allowed him to consistently outsmart bookmakers and achieve unprecedented success in Hong Kong and beyond.


The world of professional horse racing gambling is filled with intriguing characters, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the sport. From pioneers like Phil Bull to modern-day innovators like Bill Benter, these individuals have left an indelible mark on the industry. Their stories of success, coupled with unique strategies and approaches, serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring punters and highlight the ever-evolving nature of horse racing gambling in the United Kingdom. As the sport continues to captivate enthusiasts worldwide, these masterminds will be remembered for their contributions to the art and science of professional horse racing gambling.

Legendary Professional Gamblers: Icons of Risk and Reward

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Legendary Professional Gamblers: Icons of Risk and Reward
In the world of professional gambling, there exists a select group of individuals whose names have become synonymous with both triumph and tribulation. These pioneers of probability and masters of the wager have left an indelible mark on the gambling landscape, shaping its history and captivating the imagination of enthusiasts worldwide. Among these luminaries, five stand out for their remarkable exploits and enduring legacies: Phil Bull, Alex Bird, Terry Ramsden, Freddie Williams, and J P McManus.

Phil Bull:

Known as the "Godfather of Gambling," Phil Bull revolutionized the world of horse racing with his astute insights and mathematical prowess. Bull was not just a punter but also a breeder and owner of racehorses. His most notable achievement came in the form of the Timeform service, which provided in-depth analysis and ratings for racehorses. Bull's innovative approach to handicapping and his relentless pursuit of value betting earned him a place among the pantheon of gambling greats.

Alex Bird:

A legendary figure in British horse racing, Alex Bird was renowned for his uncanny ability to identify undervalued horses and exploit bookmakers' odds. His career as a professional gambler was characterized by audacious bets and spectacular wins. Bird's most memorable coup came in 1967 when he backed the horse Foinavon at odds of 100/1 in the Grand National, a race notorious for its unpredictability. The unexpected victory solidified Bird's reputation as a master tactician and cemented his status as one of the greatest punters of all time.

Terry Ramsden:

In the 1980s, Terry Ramsden captured the imagination of the public with his meteoric rise from humble beginnings to financial magnate. Armed with a background in finance and a keen understanding of market dynamics, Ramsden embarked on a high-stakes gambling spree that would make headlines around the world. His audacious bets on financial markets and horse racing yielded staggering profits, propelling him into the ranks of the super-rich. However, Ramsden's fortunes eventually took a downturn, leading to bankruptcy and legal troubles. Despite his eventual downfall, his legacy as a daring gambler and master speculator endures

Freddie Williams:

While not a professional gambler in the traditional sense, Freddie Williams made a significant impact on the gambling industry as a bookmaker. His visionary approach to bookmaking revolutionized the way odds were calculated and offered, creating a more competitive and dynamic betting environment. Williams' innovative spirit and commitment to customer satisfaction helped propel his betting empire to unprecedented heights, earning him a place as one of the most influential figures in the history of gambling.

J P McManus: 

Renowned for his shrewd business acumen and fearless approach to betting, J P McManus has become a household name in the world of horse racing and sports gambling. With a vast network of contacts and an unparalleled understanding of the betting markets, McManus has enjoyed unparalleled success both on and off the track. His penchant for backing longshots and his willingness to take calculated risks have made him a formidable force in the gambling world, earning him a fortune and widespread admiration in equal measure.

In conclusion, the legacies of Phil Bull, Alex Bird, Terry Ramsden, Freddie Williams, and J P McManus serve as a testament to the enduring allure of professional gambling. Through their daring exploits and remarkable achievements, these iconic figures have left an indelible mark on the annals of gambling history, inspiring future generations of punters to chase their dreams and defy the odds.

Photo: Freepik 

Horse Racing and Dumb Birds

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Horse Racing and Dumb Birds
Birds can be cute and cuddly but can also be bothersome demons when encountered on the racetrack. Here are a few tales where the birds should've found another place to loiter for the day. 

On May 6, 2023, jockey Chantal Sutherland suffered a horrific shoulder injury when she was thrown from her mount after her horse got spooked by two geese on the Gulfstream turf course. Sutherland rode Haruki to a fourth-place finish in the English Channel Stakes but during the gallop out, the gelding saw two geese walking and flipping their wings nearby and pitched her to the canvas. "He galloped out pretty strong, so I said, 'I'll just let him gallop out,"' Sutherland said. "Just around the seven-eight pole, the geese were in the middle of the track, walking across the turf. I grabbed a hold of the horse to pull on him and slow him down but then he saw the geese flapping their wings. He totally put the brakes on and that made me slingshot out of the saddle." 

With the other horses galloping out and approaching, she scampered under the rail for cover. When she got up, she thought she was okay but got an unpleasant surprise when she looked towards the ground. 

"I looked down at my arm and it was down by my knee just dangling," Sutherland said. 

The humorous bone had broken clean off the shoulder. Major surgery was required to insert screws and repair the arm. 

Initial estimates had Chantel back in the saddle in 3 months but as of this writing she hasn't returned and her future is uncertain.

"I'm not getting any better right now," Sutherland told the Thoroughbred Daily News in January. "My arm needs a lot more work. I dream of racing again but I don't know." 

On March 30, 2005, at Sandown Racecourse in Australia, thousands of seagulls left their warm and cozy sanctuary by the track's infield lake to secure a spot in the stretch, perhaps to get a good viewing of the upcoming feature race of the day, the Goldenway Handicap. 

The flock coated the track so densely, that the birds looked like a giant white flapping blanket on the course. When the horses turned for home the birds must have been caught napping, as they all just stood there and braced for impact. Five horses that hit the flock went down in a heap and lost their pilots. A sea of feathers, bird bodies, a few horses, and five humans littered the course during the pandemonium. 

Jockey Darren Gauci was riding Diamond Haily and received the surprise of his life in the lane. 

"I was back in the field a little bit and thought I was going okay and then I looked up and honestly all I could see was white. I couldn't even see the riders on the horses in front of me. They were like little black dots, darting everywhere. You didn't know where you were going. I didn't even know I was off my horse until I hit the deck." 

The four other riders who went down in the noisy sea of birds weren't seriously injured, but the group had some injuries. 

Jockey Brady Cross suffered a broken arm while Darren Gauci received a few chipped teeth and a sore neck. Luke Nolan sprained a thumb, Chris Symons suffered a bruised shoulder, and Michael Gutherie returned with several large bruises. Jockey Sally Wynne, who encountered a seagull problem at a different track only a week before this incident, rated Sandown as the worst for problem seagulls. 

"I ran over one and he hit the horse in the chest. (Jockey) Eddie Caser was halfway up the straight and one landed on his legs. He sort of grabbed it by the neck and threw it away and still ended up winning." 

Elmatilla, at meaningless odds of 11/1, with Peter Mertens aboard, won the Goldenway by open lengths but due to the wrath of the seagulls, the race was declared a "no-contest," and all bets were refunded. 

The winning jockey said the birds hit his horse so hard that they turned him sideways. Only 5 horses out of the eleven-horse field finished the race. 

There was another two-legged bird problem, as the Herald-Sun newspaper reported that police were summoned after one angry horse player stormed the steward's office to protest the no-contest ruling. Melbourne Racing Club Cheif Steward Des Gleeson described that day at the track as "bizarre and extraordinary." 

Some fifty varieties of birds are officially classified as seagulls and it seems somehow, someway, most of those mixtures eventually find their way to the racetrack. 

In 1992, at Randwick, a wayward seagull is thought to be responsible for the death of rider Noel Baker. His mount, Father Time went down in a heap after a seagull flew into him and the horse panicked. Baker died 11 days later from a head injury. 

In the summer of 1997, I witnessed bird madness on the racetrack when I took my wife and then seven-year-old son to Saratoga for a beautiful day of racing. Although it can be a very long day at the Spa, it turned out to be the perfect afternoon, at least until the finale. There was an extremely large concentration of birds hanging out in the stretch all day, mostly consisting of geese, ducks, and yes, seagulls, but there must've been at least another ten species of birds mixed in as well.

As a lifelong NY racetracker, I was no stranger to birds on the ovals but this seemed darkly different. You couldn't see any dirt at all on the track from the top of the lane to exactly the eighth pole and the birds got thicker as the day went on. 

My son had asked about the horses hitting the birds several times that day and I assured him it couldn't happen.

"They have something called natural flock instinct, son," I proudly stated. "Those birds can feel and see the horses coming from a mile away. They are in no danger, so stop it, relax, and enjoy the races." 

The last race finally went off and as the horses rounded the final turn, my son went into it again. 

"Those horses are gonna smash up all of those birdies," he screamed while pointing.

"For the tenth time, it's not gonna happen, son," I assured him. 

As the horses slammed into the birds at about 38 mph, the air was filled with feathers and screams. Jockeys and horses went off course and most riders lost their irons. One horse and jock were down and the ground was covered in several varieties of dead birds. It was at this exact moment, I knew I was not going to receive the Smartest Father of the Year award. I felt awful. The kid was crying as he looked down at the dead birds on the track apron and I went over to comfort him. I picked the feathers from his hair and dried his tears. I tried to explain the day's situation the best I could but I had given the kid bad information. I was hoping he was going to be okay and not scarred for life. I asked if he had any questions about the traumatic experience. 

He thought for a long minute and then his eyes got serious and I braced for the big fatherly question. 

"Can we bring home a dead pigeon and a seagull?" 

It was at that point, I knew he'd be okay. 

As we got to the car, he looked at me and said, "Birdies aren't any fun at the racetrack."

Author: Peter Monaco

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The Controversial Genius: Unraveling the Enigma of Barney Curley, Professional Gambler

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The Controversial Genius: Unraveling the Enigma of Barney Curley, Professional Gambler
Barney Curley, a name synonymous with both brilliance and controversy in the world of professional gambling, is a figure who has left an indelible mark on the industry. Known for his uncanny ability to orchestrate audacious betting coups and manipulate the odds, Curley's career is a fascinating tale of triumphs, setbacks, and a perpetual dance on the fine line between legality and cunning.

1. The Maverick Mind:

Barney Curley earned a reputation as a maverick in the gambling world due to his innovative and often unorthodox approaches. His intellect and analytical skills were unparalleled, allowing him to identify vulnerabilities in the betting system that others might overlook. His strategic mind and keen understanding of the intricacies of horse racing set him apart from the average gambler, earning him both admiration and skepticism within the industry.

2. Betting Coups and Unprecedented Wins:

Curley's most notorious exploits involved orchestrating betting coups that shook the foundations of bookmakers. One of his most celebrated triumphs came in 1975 when he masterminded the Yellow Sam Betting Coup, a scheme that involved blocking telephone lines at betting shops while his accomplice placed a substantial bet on an unheralded horse named Yellow Sam. The plan worked flawlessly, and the odds for Yellow Sam skyrocketed, resulting in a colossal payday for Curley and his associates.

3. Controversial Tactics:

While many hailed Curley as a genius, his methods were not always met with applause. His willingness to push the boundaries of ethical and legal norms stirred controversy. Critics argued that his betting coups bordered on manipulation and questioned the fairness of his tactics. Curley's willingness to exploit weaknesses in the system, though undeniably clever, drew the ire of traditionalists who believed in a more transparent and regulated gambling industry.

4. Legal Battles and Scrutiny:

Barney Curley's career was marred by legal challenges and ongoing scrutiny from authorities. His unconventional tactics, combined with the immense financial losses suffered by bookmakers as a result of his coups, led to investigations into the legality of his actions. While Curley was never convicted of any wrongdoing, the constant legal battles and the spotlight on his activities added to the controversial aura surrounding his name.

5. Philanthropy and Legacy:

Despite the controversies, Curley's legacy is not solely defined by his exploits in the world of gambling. Later in his life, he became involved in philanthropic efforts, using his wealth to support charitable causes including DAFA. This unexpected turn showcased a different side of Curley, one that aimed to balance the scales and contribute positively to society.

In conclusion, Barney Curley remains a complex and enigmatic figure in the world of professional gambling. His brilliance in orchestrating betting coups and outsmarting bookmakers is undeniable, but the controversy surrounding his methods and the legal battles he faced paint a multifaceted portrait. Whether celebrated as a daring genius or criticized as a rule-bending maverick, Curley's impact on the world of gambling is indelible, leaving behind a legacy that continues to be dissected and debated by those intrigued by the intersection of strategy, risk, and controversy in the pursuit of winning big.

Photo: Freepik 

A Unique and Flawless System

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A Unique and Flawless System
My first 15 years at the racetrack were mostly spent with my grandfather and there were more than a few days where we took a good and solid beating.

Systems and angles that had been highly successful over the years would sometimes come up empty during a particular card and you got that old familiar feeling that it just wasn't going to be your day.

But having a bad day at the track is fairly routine among daily players, and on most losing days, we'd realize we were tainted and head home early.

But occasionally, my grandfather would be relentless in his quest for a winner and we'd cruise the clubhouse and grandstands at Aqueduct or Belmont looking for fresh information or a hot tip.

He had many old friends who were former owners, trainers, and jockeys and sometimes we'd stumble upon a good tip and get bailed out.

His main man when searching for information was a former track maintenance worker named Scott. "Scotty," (as he preferred to be called) was a childhood friend of my grandfathers and the pair lived only a block apart. Scotty was long retired from being a racetrack mechanic but still did car repairs on the side to keep busy and earn some wagering money. He claimed that most of his customers were current jockeys and trainers, so he always had the latest and hottest information.

Scotty seemed like a cool character who had a slew of unbelievable stories. He seemed quite upbeat and happy and he'd always end the conversation with a belly laugh and a rather hard punch in the shoulder. His hands were arthritic and somewhat gnarled and bony, so when he chipped you in the shoulder, the pain seemed to run down your arm and you felt it for quite a while. Scotty's parting routine made him a hard man to forget.

When I first encountered him at the racetrack, I was a ten-year-old who thought this entire concept of fishing for a tip seemed like some version of the "French Connection." Scotty seemed mostly invisible and he was never just hanging around watching the races. You always had to ask around for him and after the messages made their way through a network of degenerates, a seedy character would find you and say, "Scotty will meet you under the tote board in ten minutes." The mysterious ex-mechanic man would then magically appear from the shadows of Aqueduct, sometimes with a small posse accompanying him.

I must admit, it was pretty exciting when we conjured up Scotty, as you never knew if he'd give out a 30/1 live longshot or the favorite but he always seemed to have one locked and loaded to give out. Like most tips, some would pan out and most would not. When we did receive a nice winner from him, my grandfather would seek him out (he was much easier to find after producing a winner) and toss the old guy a few bucks. Everyone went home happy and smiling and the tipster of Queens was declared a certified, national hero.

But as I got older and saw more of Scotty's antics, I noticed several red flags. For one, he was never out in the open hanging out, like most daily racetrackers are unless he gave out a winner. After a winning race, he'd hover around with an "I told you so" attitude until he got his tip and then disappeared back into the darkness. But when his tip ran up the track the man was nowhere to be found.

One day I was at Aqueduct with Granddad and we just received a hot tip from Scotty. I had just turned 18 (the legal drinking age in NY at that time) and was killing time in the bar. Scotty had given us the #7 horse in the upcoming race and as I drank my beer it occurred to me that he had given us the #7 horse the last few times he tipped us.

As I turned around to check the odds on the tote, I noticed a rare out-in-the-open appearance from Scotty. He was speaking with a man a few years my senior and when they were done talking, Scotty disappeared as usual and the man walked into the bar and pulled up a stool.

"Scotty give you the 7 horse?" I asked. "He looks good."

"No, not the 7, pal," he said as he leaned forward as if to tell me a secret. "But he says the 2 is a mortal lock. He got it fresh from the trainer's mouth this morning."

Those words were very familiar. At the end of every one of Scotty's two-minute tip sermons, he'd end the conversation with, " I got it fresh from the trainer's mouth this morning."

As I sipped the last of my beer, I fully realized Scotty was a scam artist and we had been bamboozled for many years. It seemed he had a foolproof system of giving out every horse in every race to countless people and of course, he had given the correct horse out to a few believing souls and expected a cut of the winnings.

It now made sense that he was such a hard guy to find and only showed up in a particular area where he had given out the winner and then bustled away after reaping his bounty.

As I thought about what a genius this man was, I also thought about the many black eyes I had seen him with over the years. Sure, black eyes were no big deal around the NY horse racing circuit and I even sported one once in a while. Yet, I found it quite odd that a 70-year-old man would have so many shiners.

I asked my grandfather if he fell a lot or perhaps was a boxer.

"No, he doesn't fall or box but, he does have an eye condition," he said. "The eye condition is that he keeps finding a fist in there." It all made perfect sense now, except for one thing. My grandfather was a street-wise former bookie who spent his days on the mean streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and East NY.

How could I have possibly figured this scam out before him?

When I confronted my grandfather about Scotty, he laughed hysterically. He explained that he knew about the scam for years but Scotty was a good friend who had a lot of problems.

He had a cancer-stricken wife who was in long-term hospital care and a drug-addicted son who was in and out of jail, courts, and rehab. He had a stack of medical and legal bills and had severe arthritis throughout most of his body. He wasn't able to work on any cars or even drive and hadn't in many years. He desperately needed some form of income and this provided a little something, without the risk of losing money.

When I asked my Granddad why we would support a con artist and then actually wager on the horses he gave us, he replied: "The way we were running today? Anyone picking a number out of a hat could do much better. Scotty has it rough. He decided it's easier to take a punch in the head once a week than to do a brake job on a car. He can barely walk or even hold the racing form as it is."

As I thought all this over, I was in amazement that Scotty never, ever missed a day at the track and he somehow pulled this off at the same arena every day for many years.

This legend went home a winner from the racetrack daily without ever having to make a wager.

Scotty had the perfect system, minus the black eyes.

Author: Peter Monaco 

Photo: Freepik

The Dark Clouds Of Racing

The Dark Clouds Of Racing
Most turf writers, including myself, tend to lean away from the ugly stories in our sport and gravitate toward the "feel-good and happy" narrative. But we all know it's not all sunshine and roses out there and the truth is that jockeys face death around every turn.

Today's column isn't intended to be a grim read for a morbid crowd but it is meant to be a tribute to a few little fellows who lost their lives doing what they loved.

I doubt many have heard of these men and their families and I thought they deserved mention and their stories be told. 

A Nightmare Comes True 

In the early 20th century, Billy Fahey was a popular rider around the New Zealand circuits and was known as "The Irishman." He had a mount on a horse named Arahula in an upcoming steeplechase event at Wanganui Racecourse but he didn't have a lot of confidence in his chances. He'd been schooling the horse for several weeks but was yet to ride him in a race and Arahula was every bit of a handful.

The night before the Wanganui Steeplechase, a fellow rider was outside the stalls and upon noticing Fahey, asked him for a light for his cigarette. He took out a book of matches and told his fellow jockey he could keep them.

"I won't be needing these after tomorrow," Fahey supposedly said. "I had a dream last night Arahula fell and killed me. I dreamed he kicked me on the way down."

On race day, Fahey seemed normal to most, although a reporter would later write that the rider seemed "tense and nervous."

Most of the race was uneventful but like a script from a bad horror movie, the rider's worst nightmare came true. Two jumps from home, Arahula clipped the top of the fence and did a complete somersault before landing directly on Fahey.

Although the ambulance crew rushed him to nearby Wanganui Hospital the jockey was pronounced dead on arrival.

Billy Fahey predicted his death at the age of 38. One could never calculate the infinite odds of him being correct, as we've all had weird dreams and visions at times. And, even though Fahey never collected on that long shot of a wager, he still went out a winner in my book.

The O'Shea Family

John and Norah O'Shea had seven children, two of whom were jockeys, and one of their sons, Jack, was a top rider in New Zealand. Jack's main claim to fame was riding a great mare named Desert Gold, who was very popular among the masses during the WWI years. Desert Gold was so famous, that the horse's picture adorned packages of cigarettes and tobacco tins, and parents let their kids cut out of school to watch the girl race. To this day, the "Desert Gold" name is still used in modern vaping, and nicotine products and tins with the horse's picture are widely available on the internet.

In 1925, Jack O'Shea was enjoying his success as a top jockey. He won the Auckland, Wellington, and Takapuna Cups in New Zealand and then traveled to Australia, and took the Tattersalls and Brisbane Cups on a horse named Te Kara.

But the O'Shea family had a dark cloud hovering from the past and that darkness would continue.

In 1916, Jack's younger brother died suddenly in his teenage years. A few years later, another died after a long illness and in 1924, a sister died in the family home of an undisclosed illness. That year would continue to be a bad one for the O'Sheas.

Jack's younger brother Michael followed in his brother's footsteps and took to riding horses quite well. Jack got the kid a job with the Charlie Coleman Stables but not long into Michael's career, the O'Shea curse would surface. He fell during a race at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand, hit his head, and died almost immediately at the scene.

The next year, Jack was riding at Dannevirke Racecourse on a very soggy day. He took a bad soaking but still managed to win a couple of races, including the feature on the card. But when he arrived home that night, the chill he had felt all day turned into pneumonia, and was rushed to the hospital. After a brief comeback rally, Jack passed away at the young age of 31, becoming the fifth O'Shea child to pass in a short time.

In a weird addition to this already bizarre story, the trainer that the two brothers rode for may have sported a black cloud of his own. In addition to Michael's passing, trainer Charlie Coleman had another one of his riders, Abbey Whittaker, die within a year of Jack's death. And to complete the oddity, Charlie himself disappeared from a ferry trip (and was presumed dead) while bringing a horse back from Australia. It's feared that the trainer lost his way back to his cabin after spending time with his horse and fell overboard.

Jack O'Shea's career was a good one and from my research, he seemed like a decent man. He won nearly every major race in New Zealand, some of them several times.

He was content to just put his head down and ride and wasn't looking for a bigger arena or a higher position in the industry. 

But what's even more impressive than Jack's riding career was his dedication to his family. His parents were both Irish immigrants and he bought them a nice house in Auckland. He spent the majority of his fortune supporting his family and many years later the remaining family members were still living in the house Jack purchased for them.

After Jack's passing, the O'Shea cloud moved on a bit. 

The youngest brother, Maurice, survived several battles in WWII, including time spent as a POW, and died in Auckland in 1966. 

Another brother lived a long life and spent his days as a successful optometrist in Auckland, and the parents, Jack and Norah, lived a long and full life as well.

One can only imagine the pain this poor family endured losing five children all under the age of 32 in 8 years.

Emmanuel Lionel Mercer

"Manny" Mercer was an English jockey who was a top rider throughout most of the 1950s. Horse racing was a real family affair as his brother, Joe, was also a jockey and Manny married the daughter of trainer Harry Wragg. Manny's daughter, Carolyn, married champion rider Pat Eddery, and she became a great rider in her own right.

Manny had a great reputation for being a competent and reliable rider but off track, he was known as a wildman. He liked to drink and party, smoke like a chimney, and be seen with beautiful women and fast cars.

On September 26, 1959, Manny had a mount aboard Priddy Fair in the Red Deer Stakes at Ascot.  

Manny and his horse were parading past the stands in the post-parade when Priddy Fair spun around and her back legs slipped out from under her. Manny was dislodged from the saddle and hit the rail before the panicked horse launched a few hooves in the air. Two of those kicks hit Manny in the face/head area and he died instantly.

Meanwhile, Manny's brother Joe, who was also riding in the contest, looked for Manny during the race but never saw him. He had no idea his brother had died before the race even started.

"My horse had already cantered ahead (in the post-parade) but when I got to the start I realized Manny wasn't there and I thought his filly must have been withdrawn," Joe said. "It was only when we finished the race that I saw him."

Priddy Fair, who unknowingly contributed to the death of her pilot was retired on the spot by her owner, Sir Foster Robinson, and the trainer, John Oxley. The pair agreed that they "didn't want to parade the cause of tragedy in public again."

Priddy Fair went on to the breeding shed and turned out to be quite a decent dam and grand dam to some good horses.

Many years later, Joe thought of what might have been if his brother hadn't died.

"We were rivals on the racetrack but great friends," he said in a newspaper interview in 2009. "He would have been a champion jockey for many years if he hadn't been killed."

Manny Mercer was buried at Newmarket and his daughter Carolyn visits the grave of a father she never knew. She can't help but go over and over the last entry in his journal the night before his death.

"Who knows what the life ahead holds for me."

By Peter Monaco 

Photo: Pixabay (free) 

Mastering the Game: 5 Essential Character Traits for Professional Gamblers

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Mastering the Game: 5 Essential Character Traits for Professional Gamblers
Professional gambling is a demanding endeavor that goes beyond mere luck. Successful gamblers possess a unique set of character traits that enable them to navigate the unpredictable world of betting with skill and precision. From discipline to adaptability, these traits contribute to their success and resilience in the face of challenges.

1) Discipline:

Discipline is the cornerstone of any professional gambler's success. It involves setting and sticking to a well-thought-out strategy, managing bankrolls wisely, and resisting impulsive decisions. Professional gamblers understand the importance of staying within their limits, whether it's the amount they're willing to wager or the types of bets they make. Discipline ensures they approach each decision with a clear mind, avoiding emotional reactions that can lead to financial setbacks.

2) Analytical Mindset:

Successful professional gamblers possess a keen analytical mindset. They meticulously analyze statistics, trends, and performance data to make informed decisions. Whether it's studying player statistics in sports or evaluating past performances in horse racing, the ability to interpret data is crucial. This trait allows them to identify valuable betting opportunities and make calculated predictions, separating them from those who rely solely on intuition.

3) Adaptability:

The world of gambling is dynamic and ever-changing. Professional gamblers must be adaptable to shifting circumstances, whether it's changes in team dynamics, weather conditions, or unexpected events affecting the outcome of a game. Being able to adjust strategies in response to new information or unforeseen developments is a key trait. Adaptability ensures that professional gamblers can thrive in diverse betting environments and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

4) Patience:

Patience is a virtue that pays off in the world of professional gambling. Betting on sports or other events involves waiting for the right moment to strike, whether it's spotting favorable odds or patiently observing a game's unfolding dynamics. Impulsive decisions often lead to losses, and professional gamblers understand that success often comes to those who bide their time, waiting for the opportune moment to make a well-calculated move.

5) Risk Management Skills:

Professional gamblers excel at managing risk, understanding that it's an inherent part of the game. They carefully assess the potential rewards against the associated risks before placing any bet. Effective risk management involves diversifying bets, avoiding excessive wagers, and understanding when to cut losses. This trait ensures that even in the face of losses, professional gamblers can bounce back and continue making strategic decisions without jeopardizing their overall financial stability. 


Becoming a successful professional gambler requires more than just a knack for predicting outcomes. It demands a specific set of character traits that enable individuals to navigate the complexities of the gambling world with resilience and precision. Discipline, an analytical mindset, adaptability, patience, and risk management skills form the foundation for those who aim to master the game and emerge victorious in the unpredictable world of professional gambling.

Photo: Freepik 

The Top 10 Sports Preferred by Professional Gamblers

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The Top 10 Sports Preferred by Professional Gamblers
Professional gambling is a high-stakes world where strategic decisions can make or break fortunes. While luck is always a factor, many successful gamblers focus on sports betting as their preferred arena. The diversity of sports offers a range of options, but some stand out as favorites among professional gamblers due to various factors such as predictability, statistical analysis, and global popularity.

1) Football (Soccer):

Football, or soccer, is the undisputed king of sports betting. Its global fan base, year-round schedule, and multitude of leagues make it a lucrative market for professional gamblers. They often specialize in specific leagues or tournaments, utilizing statistical models and in-depth analysis to gain an edge.

2) Basketball:

The fast-paced nature of basketball and its popularity in major markets like the NBA make it a favorite among professional gamblers. The abundance of statistics, player performance data, and the frequency of games allow for more informed betting decisions. 

3) American Football:

The NFL attracts a significant amount of professional gambling interest. The limited number of games in a season and the week-long gaps between matchups provide ample time for detailed analysis and strategic planning, making it an attractive option for serious gamblers.

4) Baseball:

Baseball's slow and strategic nature lends itself well to statistical analysis, making it a preferred choice for professional gamblers who rely on data-driven decision-making. Moneyline bets and prop bets are commonly explored in baseball betting.

5) Horse Racing:

While not a team sport, horse racing remains a staple in the world of professional gambling. The intricate knowledge of horse performance, jockey skills, and track conditions allow gamblers to make informed bets, and the variety of races throughout the year ensures a consistent betting landscape.

6) Tennis:

Tennis is a sport that offers year-round betting opportunities, with numerous tournaments taking place globally. Professional gamblers often focus on specific players, court surfaces, and tournament formats, utilizing their expertise to gain an edge.

7) Golf:

Golf's individual nature and the multitude of tournaments provide ample opportunities for professional gamblers. Betting on golf often involves predicting winners, top finishers, or specific player performances, requiring a deep understanding of player form and course characteristics.

8) Mixed Martial Arts (MMA):

The rise of MMA has brought forth a new avenue for professional gamblers. The one-on-one nature of the sport and the availability of detailed fighter statistics make it an attractive option for those who delve into the world of combat sports betting.

9) Cricket:

Cricket, with its various formats and international competitions, attracts professional gamblers who specialize in understanding the nuances of the game. Test matches, One Day Internationals (ODIs), and Twenty20 matches each offer unique betting opportunities.

10) Esports:

In recent years, esports has gained traction in the world of professional gambling. The fast-paced and ever-evolving nature of competitive video gaming provides a unique challenge for gamblers who embrace technological advancements and stay abreast of the latest gaming trends.

Conclusion: Professional gamblers navigate a diverse landscape of sports, each offering its own set of challenges and opportunities. From the global appeal of football to the data-intensive world of baseball and the strategic nature of golf, successful gamblers leverage their expertise and analytical skills to navigate these varied markets and turn the odds in their favor.

Photo: Freepik