AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: ‘Barney Curley’

I had been trying to persuade Barney Curley do a #BettingPeople interview for some time. I had a few phone calls with the great man, even received one on a Sunday morning, ‘Babe, it’s Barney Curley’ quite a buzz but ultimately, he decided not to do it.

I was very disappointed, not least because he’d been my racing hero ever since I saw this fedora donning character named Barney Curley glaring out from the front page of The Sporting Life pinned on the betting shop wall. I can’t remember what the story was but know it was something to do with being ‘on the carpet’ in front of the stewards. He must have been described as a gambler or punter too because I remember thinking that’s exactly what a professional punter should look like.

I followed his career with interest, I was such a fan boy that when I was a young squaddie I had a picture of Barney on my wall when Linda Lusardi or Sam Fox were the norm. Of course, a lot of what ‘Barney’ did was just speculation. There were public tilts at the bookies with his bet to train 10 winners in a season back in the day, he was often seen on-course, but as with all most things Barney, trying to double-guess him was a tricky old game.

There was a half-hour ‘Day in the Life of Barney Curley’ program broadcast by Channel 4 about 30 years ago. I had it on VHS for ages, then lent it to someone and never got it back. I can’t be too hard on myself though, it seems Channel 4 have lost it too, at least according to their customer services dept on Twitter. In that I remember Barney had ‘Unencumbered by Baggage’ sign-written on the back of his horsebox. He also warned that any member of staff that talked about his horses would find their bags packed and outside the stable door, you didn’t doubt it.

I was at Kempton the night in 2014 that the last legs of the most recent ‘Barney Curley’ touch were landed. I imagined him stood impassively in a room somewhere watching the last one win, puffing nonchalantly on his gasper while the inner circle went berserk cheering and hollering in celebration around him. What a feat that was. Pure genius to get four low-grade horses to win on the same day, not to mention the logistics of getting the bet on. I was always a little more in awe of Barney because he’d managed a pop group to success before his racing achievements. I’m of little doubt that he’s the type of man who’d have succeeded in anything he did.

Fast forward to Nick Luck’s terrific ‘Luck On Sunday’ interview. It was everything and more than I hoped it would be, candid and honest. It was mentioned by Nick and Barney himself that people’s opinion on him would be split 50/50, some like me who have huge admiration for Mr Curley and other’s who’d be less than complimentary about him.

Like him or otherwise, racing needs a Barney Curley, especially now. On-line bookmakers have changed the game. If you are not very good at punting you have never had it so good, it will take you a lot longer to lose your disposable income than it used to. I was regularly doing my entire cash wages on a Friday afternoon to the betting shop in Gold Street when I was a teenager. Now with responsible gambling, BOG and extra places it’ll hopefully take a bit longer to give your hard-earned to the bookies. The other hand is, if you’re a winner or have half a clue the chances are you won’t get on to more than shrapnel. Now, even worse and the biggest trust issue with the punters the industry has ever suffered, the precedent set by BetBright and now 188 it seems even OK that firms can just close up shop and void bets and everyone swallows it. The faceless bookmaking industry no longer run by sportsmen or bookmakers appear to be on a quest to eliminate all risk and are getting away with.

Again, the horseracing industry needs a Barney Curley, someone that gives the bookies a bloody nose every now and again, making them pay back some of their easy pickings, something for the punters to cheer even though they weren’t on. Yes, when Barney socks it to the layers, he’s almost certainly hoodwinking the majority of punters too. That’s the reason that some people, even ones that aren’t bookies, dislike Barney. Ask yourself this though, how many of them would turn down the offer of being one of his stickers-on? Ha, sign your names on this postage stamp. Of course, the bookies scream the place down and cry foul when our hero lands a blow. They’re much akin to the school bully who has been tormenting kids all term. Then one day a cops a right-hander off the little lad who’s dad taught him to punch and runs off to tell the teacher.

Barney told Nick Luck that he’s finished with horseracing, just concentrating on his charity DAFA He also mentioned that he didn’t even want to mastermind the 2014 coup but was eventually persuaded to by his associates. Let’s hope he comes out of retirement again, just when it’s least expected and lands another hammer blow. One back for all the punters, and another chapter in the annals of Barney Curley the legend.

After all, why should bookmakers be able to rest so easy at night.

Simon Nott

skintmobSimon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring