Showing posts from April, 2014

The extraordinary story of Barney Curley, the fearless punter who DID beat the bookmakers

When Barney Curley, the legendary Irish racehorse trainer and professional gambler, landed a spectacular gamble with a horse he owned called Yellow Sam at the Bellewstown race course in Ireland in 1975, it was through a coup that was relatively easy to pull off. He spread an outlay of slightly more than £15,000 across 300 betting shops using a team of trusted associates, and ensured that even if any of the high street bookmakers taking bets on the horse did become suspicious, their attempts to alert their colleagues at the track would be foiled because the solitary phone line to the Bellewstown circuit was being hogged by another of his team, pretending he was speaking to a dying relative. Yellow Sam won Curley more than £300,000, which was then the equivalent of £2.5 million at today's values. Modern technology means there is no way such a coup could be successful today.  Betting patterns can be evaluated in seconds and every on-course bookmaker has his own mobile phone.

Sol Campbell and the Old Harrovian: an unlikely team proves to be a winning combination

Having spent a career in defiance of professional football's stereotypes, Sol Campbell was never likely to put his name to a conventional biography.  So when it came to choosing the right person to turn his life story into words in print, the former Tottenham, Arsenal and England centre half naturally made a left-field decision. Most players plump for a football writer, either someone they know or who at least comes with the recommendation of a publisher or agent, sometimes a teammate.  And there would have been many who admired his ability as a player who would have found his enigmatic nature an irresistible challenge. But Campbell did not go down that route.  Indeed, even as his playing career moved towards a conclusion he was not convinced he even wanted to tell his story at all.  But then he met Simon Astaire. They are an unlikely combination.  Astaire is from a background almost as diametrically opposed to the East End-born Campbell's as is possible. The Harrow-ed

The Six Sixes Ball Mystery: a gripping whodunnit wrapped up in a cricket story

It is common to talk about legends in sport, whether in reference to great performers or the deeds they perform. But we use the word loosely sometimes and forget its original definition, as preserved in the Oxford English Dictionary: 'A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated.' The story of cricket's most famous over, the one bowled by Malcolm Nash of Glamorgan at the St Helen's Ground in Swansea on August 31, 1968, has passed into cricket legend. It was the one in which Garry Sobers, then of Nottinghamshire, hit all six balls for six, a feat since repeated by four other batsman but at the time unprecedented. Of course, there is no doubt at all that the iconic moment happened.  It is historical and authentic. Apart from all the eye witnesses present, and the official scorers, there is an any case footage in the BBC archives, the event filmed by chance as a camera crew underwent a training exercise. But like all good

The Masters 1996: How ruthless Faldo hunted down the floundering Shark

The history of the US Masters is a catalogue of great sporting moments. Think of Gary Player's victory from eight shots off the pace going into the final day in 1978, the great Jack Nicklaus charge to win in 1986, Augusta's own Larry Hogan Mize winning a sudden-death play-off in 1987, Tiger Woods announcing himself to the world with a stunning victory by 12 shots in 1997; or, more recently, Bubba Watson's amazing shot out of the trees on to the green at the second extra hole in 2012, setting up an extraordinary win.  There are many more. But none, perhaps, to match the drama of 1996, the year of what was labelled as one of the greatest chokes in the history of sport, let alone golf, when Greg Norman, The Great White Shark, had a six-shot lead going into the final round, bigger than anyone had enjoyed since the Masters was first contested, yet somehow contrived to let it slip away. As disaster stalked him through every step, Norman shot a 78 against Nick Faldo's 6

The invincible AP McCoy - journalist McClean crafts a high-class story of a high-class jockey

It says much about the extraordinary ability that jump jockey AP McCoy brings to his trade that his decision to partner Double Seven in tomorrow's Grand National at Aintree saw the eight-year-old's price with the bookies come down so sharply it seemed he could even be the favourite by the time the horses go to post. Trained in Ireland by Martin Brassil, who won the National at his first attempt with Numbersixvalverde in 2006, Double Seven could have been backed at 50-1 at the end of January. His odds had shrunk to 25-1 this time last week, but such was the run of money that poured in after 18-times champion jockey McCoy was confirmed as the rider there were some bookmakers offering as little as 12-1 by Thursday evening. Since he rode his first winner at the age of 17 back in 1992, McCoy has come home in front more than 4,000 times, an unprecedented total.   He became champion National Hunt jockey in 1995-96 and has won the title every year since. With three weeks to go i