IT HASN’T taken long following the death of Irvinestown’s Barney Curley for the filmmakers to get out of the starting gate.
Now, a BBC producer and self-proclaimed “racing person” is taking the story of the 1975 Yellow Sam betting coup to television, hopefully in time for Christamas this year.
Freelance producer James Bray worked on the BBC’s Newsnight for eight years and was always aware of Curley’s reputation as the only man to clean up at the bookies not once, but twice (that we know about).
Bray will now tell the tale of Curley’s first coup in a 1975 touch at Bellewstown that earned him a pay-out of around £2 million in today’s money.
Curley had men back his horse Yellow Sam in 300 betting shops across Ireland at 20-1. Bookmakers couldn’t get the odds down because Curley had also planted someone in the only phonebox in the racecourse at Bellewstown right up to the start of the race.
“When I was left the BBC five years ago,” Bray told the Racing Post, “I was looking for a project and I was surprised to learn that no-one had ever done a film about Barney.”
The filmmaker went on to say how he approached Barney Curley, who was famous for not giving interviews, by writing him a letter in longhand talking mostly about Cybrandian, his father’s 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up.
After he received the letter Barney Curly, who died last month at the age of 81, called and the pair talked about Cybrandian.
“He said he remembered the horse very well and that’s how we got going,” Bray recalls today. Four hours of footage was recorded with Curley, jockey Michael Furlong and bookmakers who were at Bellewstown.
Bray is still looking for photos or other material from anyone who was at Bellewstown when Yellow Sam won and he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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