Barney Curley, renowned gambler and trainer, dies aged 81

Curley came to prominence over Yellow Sam coup in 1975 and went on to train horses

Barney Curley, pictured in 1984, has died aged 81. Photograph: Getty

Barney Curley, pictured in 1984, has died aged 81. Photograph: Getty

 

Barney Curley, the renowned gambler and former racehorse trainer, died on Sunday, aged 81.

Born and brought up in Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh, Curley abandoned plans to be a priest in favour of becoming a professional gambler and came to public prominence over the Yellow Sam betting coup at Bellewstown races in 1975.

Curley masterminded a plot that revolved around a friend pretending to be on a prolonged phone call to a dying aunt from the sole call box at the racecourse.

It meant off-course bookmakers were prevented from cutting Yellow Sam’s starting ‘SP’ and the Curley owned horse won at 20-1 despite being widely backed in betting shops .

Estimates of up to €2 million at today’s rates were scooped in winnings.

As well as owning horses, Curley also started training them and his first winner was I’m Incommunicado ridden by Willie Mullins at Naas in 1984.

He stopped training in 2012 but continued to bet and admitted to being involved in a famous four-horse coup in 2014 that reportedly cost bookmakers millions.

The Irishman was an instrumental figure in the development of some of racing’s best known jockeys over the years including Frankie Dettori, Jamie Spencer and Tom Queally who rode the unbeaten champion Frankel.

In 1995 Curley’s 18-year-old son Charlie was killed in a car accident.

Afterwards he turned his attention to charity work, setting up the Direct Aid for Africa organisation in 1996 which has raised millions to improve health and education in Zambia.

The former champion National Hunt jockey Sir AP McCoy tweeted on Sunday: “Feel lucky to have enjoyed his company, a man with well founded legendary status as a trainer/gambler but one who also raised lots for the charity Direct Aid for Africa.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.