One week after British bookmakers were hit with combined estimated losses of £15 million, they have been hit again following four horses with ties to Barney Curley won their respective races with many bets placed while the horses were priced as outsiders.
Initial estimates were wide of the mark, with some newspapers reporting that the losses matched the previous week’s astronomical total. However, it appears the losses to the bookmakers was a more palatable, yet still costly, £2.5 million, with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power suffering losses in excess of £1 million.
“There’s no doubt this is one of the blackest days in the history of bookmaking,” said a spokesperson for Paddy Power, “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. What looked like a mundane midweek’s racing has turned into one of the most newsworthy racing days of the modern era.”
Of the four winners, three were trained by Curley; Eye of the Tiger, Low Key and Seven Summits all started their races as favourites but were available for long prices earlier in the day.
The fourth winning horse, Indus Valley, was trained by Des Donovan who is a known business associate of Mr Curley.
According to The Guardian, most of the successful bets were placed through online bookmakers in Gibraltar, which sparked rumours that the local regulator might block payments. This story gathered pace because in May 2010, the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner would not authorise a £850,000 payment to Curley and his associated by BetFred until nearly two years later.
However, Andrew Griffiths spoke on behalf of BetFred and revealed they are paying out everything they had lost. “Everything is being paid out. We took a step back for a moment to make sure that everything was above board and this morning it was given the go-ahead. Altogether, it came to about a quarter of a million pounds across the whole group.”
Griffiths also stated that BetFred didn’t accept bets overnight so “didn’t get stitched up with all the tasty prices.”
All four of the horses had not run for some time – Indus Valley hadn’t run for 700 days – while Seven Summits was racing in its first hurdles race. The British Horseracing Authority has said it is continuing to review he previous performances of the horses concerned.
It has been a difficult start to 2014 for Britain’s bookmakers who have seen their share prices slashed following these two unique gambling events and the uncertainties about the point of consumption tax among other taxation issues.