We take a look at some of the biggest plunges ever seen on the race track in Australia and around the world.
Of course, all of these legendary stories are just that, nobody can ever be sure how much money was actually netted, except for those pulling the strings.
Have Your Say: Tell us about the plunges you have heard of, or maybe even one that you pulled off! – Leave a comment below.
D Four Dave - 2010
A group of businessmen elaborated a plan to win a “stack” and all without it being noticed. They had hired over 100 men to each place a 200 pound wager on the horse all at the same time at a different betting shops around Ireland, an amount they believed would go “un-noticed”.
The “runners” were given an envelope with a betting slip for the betting shop they were to go to, 200 pounds in cash to place the bet and an alarm that would go off at a certain time that they must place the bet before.
This may not have been the biggest plunge in regards to price drop (14/1-5/1) or money taken but just the magnitude and precision of the operation was brilliant.
Tipping Time and Jim Houlahan – 1970’s
Although the exact figures about Tippin Time’s plunge back in the 70’s are sketchy at best, the late Jim Houlahan was considered one of the best in the business when it came to setting one for a race and landing the big bets.
It is believed that four-figure sums were bet minutes before the jump at Moonee Valley on a new arrival to the Houlahan stable. The bets were placed throughout Melbourne’s bookmaker community and were timed so that the SP could only get down to 33/1 at the jump. The horse won and it is believed that he sent many bookies’s out of business, some of them still paying off debts 40 years later!
He was known as the master of the sting, better known in his later years for his ability to get one going over the jumps, it seems the legacy of Jim Houlahan has a couple of strings to that bow.
Lucy’s Light – 2005
We go the greyhounds for the next big plunge, which in actual fact was more of a manipulation than a plunge.
Lucy’s Light was racing against far inferior opposition, looked a put in take out job. She was prohibitively skinny odds, and deservedly so. As she duly saluted by 7 lengths, the three tote dividends flashed up and she was paying $13 on UNITAB!
The masterminds behind the actions had placed an estimated $75k on cash bets on the other five runners in the race.
Although they anticipated that they would lose this $75k, the odds on the winner would be inflated so they could bet elsewhere.
Corporates back in the day were offering “choose your tote” so all they had to do was bet on Lucy’s Light and select UNITAB as their dividend. It is believed that small time operator Curly Seal out of Adelaide was the hardest hit, an estimated $20k was bet on Lucy’s Light at the inflated tote odds.
A brilliant scheme or cheating the game, many have mixed opinions on this one.
Barney Curley – Lifetime
Barney Curley was feared by bookmakers around the UK. He had the patience, knowledge, bankroll and connections to make things happen. He has been involved in some legendary coups, the latest being four separate horses all racing on the same day. He is believed to have coerced trainers and stables that had formerly worked for him to set up horses for particular races, some of them having staggering betting moves. 10/1-Evens, 7/1-9/4, 20/1-4/6 and 7/1 to 4/7 are believed to be the plunges that all occurred and all salute on the same day, all thanks to his work.
Previously, he had reportedly set up a sting where he had people putting bets on around the country, when these betting shops and rails bookmakers were trying to contact the track to lay-off he had hired someone to man the only phone on course so the bets could not come through, and the SP would remain high.
Getting Closer - 1980
Getting closer was a maiden that was trained in Melbourne and owned by Mark Read. He had been galloping well with much better performed horses and Read decided to send him to Sydney to try and get a price and land a plunge.
Read had runners on the ground at every major betting ring around the country that day. Too his shock, as much as 200/1 was bet in the Sydney ring firming all the way into 2/1 on some boards. It is believed the biggest bookies in Dominic Beirne and Robbie Waterhouse were taken for six figures each, with a figure of about $1 Million being taken from the satchel swingers nation wide.
In 1980, that was some amount!
Fine Cotton Affair – 1984
No list such as this could be without the infamous Fine Cotton Affair. Fine Cotton was backed from 33/1-7/2 in a race at Eagle Farm. The problem was that the poorly performed Fine Cotton was in fact well performed Bold Personality. The syndicate behind the plunge and subsequent ring-in had actually ear marked a different horse to substitute in, but it was injured. They applied hair colouring and white paint (yes PAINT!) to mimmick the marking of Fine Cotton.
Bold Personality won the race and as he was returning to scale the paint was beginning to run down its legs. The trainer was called but had vanished, the stewards disqualified the horse and the punters and syndicates went home empty handed. The syndicate and organiser were jailed, four others warned off racetracks for life.
Father-son bookmakers Bill and Robbie Waterhouse were also banned, that was lifted after 14 years away from the track. A sting where the stingers got stung!