January 25, 2014

Bookmaker's darkest day: Failed coup or another gamble?

24 hours after an inspired and successful £2m gamble on four horses with links to legendary punter Barney Curley, bookmakers were on red alert when another horse with similar associations was the plunge of the day in Kempton’s 5.00 last night.

Pipers Piping, trained in his previous races by John Butler, was backed from 20-1 to 6-4 favourite with BetVictor.

Butler was responsible for one of the gambled-on quartet the previous day, Low Key, who returned from a 350-day lay-off to win at 4-7 having been backed in from 7-1.

Pipers Piping bore a similar profile, a eight-time winner who had fallen from grace and was having his first run for almost a year.

But Pipers Piping could finish no better than seventh so the gamble failed – or did it.

The race was won by 16-1 chance Prohibition, like Pipers Piping previously trained by Butler and having its first run for Mandy Rowland.

Prohibition had been favourite for its last race but due to the interest in its stablemate drifted to 16-1.

The betting patterns resembled an ‘SP job’, a tactic not in breach of any rules of racing, where one horse is backed to improve the odds and disguise interest in another.

Of Wednesday’s infamous quartet, Eye Of The Tiger (Lingfield, 1.30) and Secret Summit (Catterick, 1.40) were once trained by Curley, Low Key is trained by Butler, a former Curley assistant, while Des Donovan, responsible for saddling both Eye Of The Tiger and Indus Valley (Kempton, 4.25) is based in Curley’s old yard at Exning outside Newmarket.

The quartet was available at combined odds of 14,783-1 on Tuesday night, but post-gamble the combined SP odds became a mere 16-1.

The sensational gamble was reminiscent of the £4m coup Curley famously engineered in 2010.

A spokesman for Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said on Wednesday: “There’s no doubt this is one of the blackest days in the history of bookmaking.

“The horses have been backed in singles, doubles, trebles and four-folds and punters who have heard about the gamble have clambered aboard the bandwagon.”

Each of the horses was placed in races they could justifiably win on their best form but due to their lack of recent form they were priced up as outsiders.

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