Book of the week: The Sure Thing by Nick Townsend
Saturday 22 February 2014
Bookmakers like multiple bets. They regard them as the province of the mug punter, and on the rare occasion that someone wins big they milk the publicity while counting the many millions lost by those less fortunate.
So when on 10 May 2010 a small army of men, marshalled with military precision, toured betting shops and placed thousands of trebles and yankees (a four-horse bet, combining doubles, trebles and an accumulator) on seemingly average horses at stakes low enough not to sound any alarm bells, the bookies were slow to react. In the event only three of the four horses won, but the audacious – and entirely legal – coup still netted £3.9 million. (If all four had triumphed, the take would have been around £15m.)
Nick Townsend tells the story with panache, helped by a close acquaintance with the Irish mastermind of the scheme, Barney Curley, a name which bookmakers have had reason to curse on several occasions.
Curley is a complex character: a deeply religious man who has founded a charity to build schools in Africa, he was also variously a smuggler, showband manager and publican before becoming a professional gambler.
Those who have read Curley’s autobiography, ghosted by Townsend, can skip much of the first half of this book. It gets properly into its stride when it focuses on the coup, which in its innovative daring calls to mind The Italian Job. After that triumph Curley, now 74, seemed content to wind down, saying to Townsend last year: “People ask me, would you try it again? No. No chance.”
To his credit, Townsend wasn’t convinced, which is just as well, because a month ago a remarkably similar operation, all four horses winning this time, cost the bookies another £2m or so. Was that Curley’s final flourish? Don’t bet on it.
Published in hardback by Century, £20
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
Latest in Sport
Germany vs Argentina World Cup final 2014: Five reasons why Argentina will win the World Cup
World Cup Final 2014: Choosing between Germany and Argentina is an impossible choice
Luke Shaw arrives a week early for Manchester United pre-season training after cutting short post-World Cup holiday
PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Luis Suarez joins Barcelona: Wilfried Bony, Karim Benzema and the other transfer targets Liverpool should look to replace Suarez with
- 2 Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber pass £170,000 on eBay
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...