On December 2, 1979, Barney Curley pulled off one of the most famous betting coups in horse racing history. Dubbed the “Yellow Sam” coup, the scheme involved backing a horse named Sam O’Hagan to win a race at the Bellewstown racecourse in Ireland, and it ended up netting Curley and his accomplices a cool £500,000 (equivalent to around £2 million today).
But how did Curley manage to pull off such a massive betting coup? And how did the “Yellow Sam” nickname come about?
To understand the Yellow Sam coup, it’s necessary to first understand a little bit about Barney Curley himself. Born in Northern Ireland in 1943, Curley was a successful businessman and a seasoned gambler who had made a fortune through a variety of ventures, including property development and racehorse ownership. He was known for his love of a good bet and his willingness to take risks in pursuit of a big payout.
The Yellow Sam coup was masterminded by Curley in collaboration with a group of accomplices, including several jockeys and trainers. The plan was to get Sam O’Hagan, a relatively unknown horse owned by Curley, to win a race at the Bellewstown racecourse on December 2, 1979.
Setting Up Yellow Sam…
To make this happen, Curley and his team set about creating the illusion that Sam O’Hagan was in top form and ready to win. They hired a top jockey to ride the horse and arranged for him to be trained at a secret location, away from the prying eyes of the media and other racing insiders.
In the days leading up to the race, Curley and his team also placed a series of large bets on Sam O’Hagan to win, in an attempt to influence the odds and make the horse appear like a strong contender.
On the day of the race, Sam O’Hagan was a massive outsider, with odds of 100-1. But thanks to the skill of the jockey and the horse’s hidden training, Sam O’Hagan managed to pull off an unlikely victory, much to the surprise of the racing world.
The Yellow Sam coup was a massive success, netting Curley and his accomplices a cool £500,000 in winnings. But it wasn’t long before the authorities caught on to what had happened. An investigation was launched, and several people connected to the coup, including Curley, were eventually charged with conspiracy to defraud.
Curley was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison. However, he appealed the verdict and was eventually released on a technicality.
Despite the legal drama, the Yellow Sam coup remains one of the most memorable and lucrative betting coups in horse racing history. It’s a testament to the cunning and risk-taking spirit of Barney Curley, a man who was always willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of a big payoff.
The “Yellow Sam” nickname, meanwhile, came about because Curley had placed a large bet on Sam O’Hagan using a yellow pen. The pen became a symbol of the coup, and the nickname stuck.
In the years since the Yellow Sam coup, Curley has continued to make headlines as a successful businessman and gambler. He remains a controversial figure in the world of horse racing, but his reputation as a risk-taker and a master of the betting coup is well-deserved.