An Al Duncan musing

10th July : The Tote's in safe hands, surely?

Back in the 1980s & 90s, Glasgow-born cyclist Robert Miller was a phenomenal presence in European road cycling. Stage winner at major tours, and King of the Mountains winner in both Tour de France & Giro d'Italia. In terms of pro-cycling, modern day media wonder-kid Brad Wiggins couldn't hold a candle to our hero,
So, what happened to Robert after he stopped cycling? Well, it's a bit of a mystery, with actual sightings rare. Indeed, his life prompted publication of a book in 2007 titled "In Search of Robert Millar".

As many of you have noticed (that'll be Lucky Dave then - Ed) I haven't written any Musings for a few months now. No promptings of full-scale searches though, or anything like that; I just haven't written any for a while, that's all. I had no strange disappearance (although I'm told I have a strange appearance; but that's another matter...)

Anyway, much like Robert Millar, I've found racehorse trainer Barney Curley a fascinating and admirable man over the last couple of decades. Enigmatic is a term shared by both sportsmen as well.
I'd love to own a copy of Barney's autobiography "Giving a Little Back" (long since out of print) as there's far more to the man than successful Irish trainer/gambler. His ability to reduce John McCririck & Luke Harvey on ATR to grovelling wretches in a matter of moments is of course priceless, but Barney's work as the driving force behind Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA) puts him on a different, Geldof-ish level.

And so to the fall-out from a gamble landed in May 2010 involving a yankee bet with 3 horses from the Curley yard and one other from Chris Grant. Three out of the four won. There were several 'relatives' involved in the gamble (see Patrick Veitch's excellent "Enemy Number One" for how it's done), and after the usual inquiries all UK bookmakers paid out in full (it ran into the proverbial 'seven figures').
So, gamble landed......but not if you were Fred Done, co-founder and owner of Betfred. Now, as is the modern business trend, the on-line arm of Betfred is based in Gibraltar, whose Gambling Authority have ruled the coup as a 'fraudulent exercise". Incredibly, despite paying out in full in the UK, Betfred - and Betfred alone - have refused to pay out some £800,000 due to its on-line winning customers, namely the 'relatives' of Curley.

That the fourth largest UK bookmaker can tarnish the reputation, by non-payment of debts, of the whole industry is astounding. Should this act be repeated, the very basis for betting, particularly on horses could crumble. And where would that leave British Horseracing.

Still, at least, we've always got the Tote to provide Government-backed integrity to punters the length and breadth of Britain.
What's that you say?????? Oh darn....

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