We all love to read about those David versus Goliath type betting coups that have been landed over the years, where the small man has taken down the big bookmaker and landed himself a small fortune in the process.

All manner of people have either orchestrated an almighty gamble themselves or have simply got extremely lucky with the horse racing results perfectly landing their way.

Let’s take a look at some of those lucrative racing stories that have landed those involved a pretty penny – or two!


The Yellow Sam Coup

To this day this well planned plot remains one of the biggest spankings ever handed out to a British or Irish bookmaker.

Yellow Sam was one of the first horses that Barney Curley ever bought, but Curley hatched a plan that would see his racehorse winning him more than just racecourse prize money.

The year was 1975 and Curley chose to race Yellow Sam at Bellewstown Races specifically, as the track had just two telephone lines. About half way through the day Curley knew that one of the lines went out of operation, leaving just one solo line.

Curley enrolled a friend to pretend to make an extended call to his aunt that was dying in order to block any attempts from off-course bookmakers phoning up the track to cut Yellow Sam’s price.

On the day of the race, Yellow Sam’s starting price was 20–1 and there was the potential to make a lot of profit.

If it became known that large sums of money were being placed on his horse then alarm bells would be raised and the large gamble would be foiled, so Curley enrolled some friends and accomplices to help him.

Dozens of Curley’s helpers waited in bookmaker’s shops across Ireland with money to place bets with. None of them knew beforehand which horse they were backing or even the race it was running in.

Curley made sure the bets were in sealed in envelopes that were not allowed to be opened until they received a phone call from Curley.

Yellow Sam peacefully went about negotiating the 13-hurdles and won by two and a half lengths in the end, netting Curley a cool £1.4 million.

With the bookmakers oblivious to what was going on they did not have the wherewithal to shorten Yellow Sam’s odds and Curley’s betting master plan was landed.


Tote Jackpot

The UK’s biggest known accumulator win came in March 2011 when plumbing engineer Steve Whiteley managed to win the Tote Jackpot at Exeter and land himself a £1,445,671.71 payday.

His six winners consisted of Semicolon (2/1), Black Phantom (12/1), Ammunition (16/1), Mr Bennett (16/1), Lundy Sky (5/1), and Lupita (12/1).

Steve told reporters after the successful sixth leg: “The most exciting bit was after the fourth race when my mate said only seven people in the whole country were still in it.”

Asked how he felt when he knew there was just Lupita left to oblige, Steve replied: “I couldn't watch the last race. I'm shaking like a leaf, I can't believe it.”


Magnificent Seven

Saturday 28th September 1996 will always be remembered as one of the truly great days in racing history when Frankie Dettori went through the entire card at Ascot, clocking up seven winners.

Dettori started the day by winning on Wall Street (2-1) in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes, which was followed up by Diffident, a 12-1 shot in the horse racing betting, in the Diadem Stakes. 

Next up was the feature race, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, in which Mark Of Esteem (100-30) and Dettori got the verdict over Bosra Sham.

As Decorated Hero (7-1) passed the post in first place in the Tote Festival Handicap, the tally was four and people were beginning to get a touch more excited, and when Fatefully (7-4) made it a five from five in the Rosemary Stakes the crowd were beginning to crank it up.

Dettori now stood on the brink of equalling the record held Gordon Richards and Alec Russell in winning six races on the same card and when Lochangel (5-4) duly obliged in the Blue Seal Stakes he joined those afore mentioned names – but only for 35 minutes!

Fujiyama Crest was the horse that had the responsibility of making Dettori a history maker, and because of the bookmaker liabilities that were rolling up around the country, the 12/1 morning line price was slashed and Fujiyama Crest was made the 2/1 favourite.

Dettori lead all the way on the four-year-old, to just hold on by a neck and bring up what is now fondly remembered as “The Magnificent Seven”.

Naturally there were many elated Dettori punters around the country that day and none more so than Darren Yates. For an initial outlay of £67.58 he raked in the wonderful sum of £550,823 from his accumulator.


Stable Lad Scoops £1m

Stable lad Conor Murphy, who worked for the Nicky Henderson yard, had a 2012 Cheltenham Festival to remember when he bagged £1m from backing five of his bosses horses in a £50 antepost accumulator.

Sprinter Sacre kicked off proceedings with victory in the Arkle, Simonsig scored in the Neptune and Bobs Worth took the RSA chase.

Then it was left to Finian’s Rainbow (Queen Mother Champion Chase), who Murphy looked after, and Riverside Theatre to plunder the Ryanair Chase and they both duly obliged to bring up the five-timer.

In another gamble in that same Cheltenham week, Phil Williams, owner of the Donald McCain-trained Son Of Flicka, was reported to have collected £900,000 when his horse won the Coral Cup.


50p Punter Wins £1 Million

In 2008, Fred Craggs, from Thirsk, found he had hit the jackpot on his 60th birthday but he sat through a family meal first without telling anyone.

He beat odds of two million to one when all his horses came in on a 50p eight horse accumulator. 

A spokesman for the bookmaker he placed it with said the bet was "the most amazing ever" since betting shops were made legal in 1961.

Mr Craggs placed his bet in a betting shop in Thirsk after reading all the horse racing tips and news.

To collect the £1 million windfall he needed all eight horses to win - from the first horse called Isn't That Lucky, to the last horse called A Dream Come True, they all did the business.


*Credit for the main photo belongs to Tony Feder / AP Photo*

Steven is a sports and horse racing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 30 renewals of the Grand National.