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From betting coups to grand theft auto, six tales from the Hill of Crockafotha

Barney Curley: the mastermind behind the Yellow Sam gamble
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1 Yellow Sam

It is 44 years since Yellow Sam netted renowned gambler Barney Curley one of his largest sums at Bellewstown in the summer of 1975 but the coup is still celebrated, so much so that the phone box that played a starring role in the gamble stands proudly as a centrepiece of racing history at the track to this day.

Curley won 306,000 pounds, the equivalent of over €2 million in today’s money, on Yellow Sam, who appeared to have little chance of winning the 2m5f Mount Hanover Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle on all known form.

The original phone box from Barney Curley's Yellow Sam betting coup

An army of Curley's 300 runners backed the apparent no-hoper at SP with the gambler occupying the one phone box on course inquiring about a fictitious sick relative, thus denying bookmakers the opportunity of driving the SP of Yellow Sam given their only point of contact to the track was blocked. 

Sure enough, Yellow Sam romped home at odds of 20-1 and, while some bookmakers cried foul play, Curley was paid with the gamble going down in racing history.

2 Charity race

Conor O'Dwyer: won the charity race at the track in 2011

Back in August 2011, some of the most celebrated jockeys in recent times, including Conor O'Dwyer, Norman Williamson, Adrian Maguire and Charlie Swan, came out of retirement to do battle in a 1m6f maiden to support the funding of the erection of a memorial statue to another legend, Arkle.

O'Dwyer, associated with greats such as Hardy Eustace, War Of Attrition and Imperial Call, won the contest on the Jessica Harrington-trained Bullock Harbour, where he looked as stylish as ever in easing his mount down to a cosy success at the line.

In his rear view mirror, O'Dwyer had Norman Williamson over four lengths behind on the Gordon Elliott-trained Priors Gold while Adrian Maguire filled the frame in third aboard his own horse Teak.

3 Elliott seven-timer

Gordon Elliott: was the toast of the Bellewstown crowd in the summer of 2015 after seven-timer on the day

Gordon Elliott enjoyed a remarkable return on a fine summer’s afternoon at Bellewstown in 2015 when he recorded a 474-1 seven-timer with three winners at the County Meath track and four across the water at Perth.

Mustadrik, Be Seeing You and Moonmeister got the job done for the master of Cullentra at Bellewstown, after which, he heaped praise on his staff.

“It’s been a great day, the best I’ve had in terms of numbers. I have a nice bunch of horses, but I’ve always said I have the best staff in the country,” Elliott said.

4 Dangerous driving

Danny Mullins: found himself in hot water after driving back to the weighing room in an ambulance back in 2011

It’s well known that Danny Mullins is a big fan of Formula 1 but the talented rider’s need for speed got the better of him when he ‘borrowed’ an ambulance in order to return to the weighing room after pulling up in a race at the track back in 2013.

Mullins was handed a 14-day suspension under rule 272 which governs behaviour which is prejudicial to the integrity, conduct and good reputation of racing after the unusual incident. 

5 American dream

Bellewstown: horses in action at the track

Sir Azzaro became only the second American-trained horse after Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Fourstars Allstar to win a race in Ireland when he landed a mile maiden at Bellewstown in 2001 under Eddie Ahern. 

The only horse in training with Florida-based Frenchman Franck Mourier, Sir Azzaro had to overcome a stewards' enquiry to make the long journey a worthwhile adventure.

After getting the verdict, Mourier's wife, Capucine, said: "Franck trained for two years in Chantilly before going to Florida, and this colt, who is being stabled at the Curragh racecourse, may stay here for another few weeks."

Sir Azzaro, who accounted for Shaunas Vision by three-quarters of a length that day, never won another race.

6 Famous winners

In terms of high quality horses to have raced at Bellewstown, Liberman will have to go down as one of the best. Winner of a bumper at the track in 2002 for the late Paddy Mullins, Liberman would go on to land the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham the following spring when trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Tony McCoy. 

Allangrange, winner of the 1970 Irish St Leger, is arguably one of the most famous Flat horses to have won at the venue over the years. 

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Back in August 2011, some of the most celebrated jockeys in recent times came out of retirement to do battle in a 1m6f maiden
E.W. Terms