On a sun-griddled afternoon at Bellewstown in the summer of 1975 Barney Curley was crouched among the bushes adjacent to the third-last, watching the hindquarters of a field of undistinguished hurdlers disappear towards the finishing post.
Curley was accompanied by Ann Brogan, whose father Jimmy had trained Gold Legend to win the 1958 Irish Grand National. She was sister of Barry, the jump jockey. She, too, had ridden winners as an amateur under rules.
On this day it wasn’t her racing expertise that Curley sought, but her wheels. Curley had “a big, flashy car” at the time, which would have attracted unwanted interest. So surreptitious had he been that few would be aware until the following day, other than those managing the betting shops of Ireland on both sides of the border, of what would culminate in the biggest betting coup in racing history.
Even some of those involved had no notion of the true significance of the enterprise.
The son of County Fermanagh, then 37, was in the infancy of his gambling career, having been a relatively late starter. He had set out fully intending to become a Jesuit priest. At Mungret College he would get to know, among other lay pupils, Barry Brogan.
After contracting TB, from which he took a year to recover, Curley felt unable to continue training for the priesthood and developed diverse business interests, from managing an Irish showband to farming pigs and cattle to running betting shops. And gambling.