RACING AHEAD: The truth is stranger than fiction

Racing Ahead
Racing Ahead

Racing pundit Tony McCormick from presents his weekly column. This week Tony looks at the art of landing a gamble, well sort of...

Legendary author Dick Francis passed away at the age of 89 in February 2010. His final novel, written, as with his previous two books, with his son Felix, was called Even Money. In the novel, released in September 2009, 30 juvenile delinquents are given strict instructions to go into different betting shops and place £200 win bets on an outsider called Cricket Hero, who duly obliges, exactly five minutes before the race starts.

Fast forward to June 2010 on a summery evening in Kilbeggan and the 7pm race, a 16-runner, three-mile handicap hurdle. Favourite, the Michael Hourigan-trained Dizzy Rascal finished second at 7/2, a good seven lengths behind easy winner, D Four Dave.

A day later, it emerged that D Four Dave was the subject of a meticulously-planned coup, masterminded by part-owner Douglas Taylor, managing director of Dublin-based recruitment company MCR. It was revealed that MCR paid 200 people to each place €200 they were given on D Four Dave, five minutes before the off, as in the book, with detailed instructions issued to each in a letter.

The orders read, Dear Employee, enclosed you will find: A completed betting slip for the betting shop that you have been sent to. €200 in cash for which you need to place the bet. You should also have a watch with an alarm set to go off at 6.55pm.

“You need to be at the counter before the alarm goes off to be in position to hand over the betting slip and say to the person at the counter “I will take the price”. The coup was due to land its organisers at least €200,000.

The vast majority of the 200 individuals were immigrants as Taylor wanted to minimise the risk of information leaking out. Each were given a watch, with the alarm set to go off exactly five minutes before the race. The six-year-old, had been available at 14/1 on the morning of the race, before being backed into an opening show of 7/1 on course, eventually going off and winning at 5/1.

Unfortunately, the plan went somewhat awry, when some of the foreign nationals failed to carry out the instructions with the military precision that was intended.

A number of the unlikely gamblers were said to be unable to read the instructions on the note, others said the alarm on their watches failed to go off, while other attempted to place the €200 on D Four Dave after the race had concluded.

Taylor, though, was upbeat and the coup was said to have landed the gang around €150,000.

At the same time on the evening of the Kilbeggan Coup, around 200 guests were beginning to assemble at a memorial service for Dick Francis held at St Martin-in-the-fields.