€5m betting coup in Roscommon

Bookmakers were hit for an estimated €5m on Tuesday when what has been described as “a well orchestrated betting coup” was pulled off at Roscommon Races.

Three horses trained by the same man and all ridden on the evening by Davy Russell all won at short prices after their odds had dramatically changed during the course of the day.

Charles Byrnes trained all three horses and Davy Russell duly rode all three home to victory. The odds on the three winning have been calculated at about 3,300/1.

There was a special atmosphere at the Roscommon Racecourse as speculation mounted throughout the day about the impending coup. The fact that the odds on the three horses in question had drastically fallen sparked a frenzy of interest in their races.

The drama unfolded with the 6.40 race, the Paul Byron Shoes Maiden Hurdle. The winner, ‘War Anthem’, finished at 6-1 after being 16-1 on Tuesday morning. The second winner was ‘Mr Smith’ in the next race of the evening, the JF Hanley Handicap Hurdle. Earlier in the day this horse had been available at 12/1, but it returned as 7/4 favourite after keen betting interest.

In the 8.10 race, sponsored by Class Grass, ‘Top of the Town’ won to complete the extraordinary treble. That horse finished as 5/4 favourite, having been available earlier at 16/1!

Mr. Byrnes told the media that the coup “had not been a long time in the planning” and that it was “needed” after his experiences at the recent Galway Festival. “It’s just the way it turned out. I won’t say that I planned this. I just had a bunch of six or seven horses that hit form and I thought, to hell with it, I may as well throw three or four of them in together and we only put it together in the last couple of weeks.”

‘It was meant to be a quiet evening…’

Paddy Power’s Paul Binfield said his firm was “praying for a miracle” after Russell’s first two victories.

“Even though we were onto the treble quite early, we’ve paid out well into six figures between the three of them,” said Mr. Binfield, who added: “Well done to Charles on a well orchestrated gamble!”

Betfred spokesman Matt Hulmes added: “Charles Byrnes and Davy Russell have had it off in grand style on what was expected to be a quiet evening. “We managed to just stay on top of the liabilities early doors but it is still a hit in the satchels and coming on the back of Goodwood it’s certainly the punters who are in clover at present.”

Boylesports’ Liam Glynn said: “Alarm bells rang early on Tuesday morning with every housewife across the country having their fivers on the three horses. Our wounds are sore but you have to admire Mr. Byrnes on his training performance.”

William Hill’s Jon Ivan-Duke added: “It was an industry-wide move and all bookmakers, especially online, have been stung. “Our traders were on top of the move early and mitigated the gamble but it is still a hard pill to swallow, especially given the previous form of the horses.”

Ladbrokes’ David Williams said his firm had been hit for “much more than pocket money”. “The onus seems to be on bookmakers to have the best systems in place to limit their exposure to scenarios like the Roscommon gamble. “We are happy enough with how we managed it, despite shelling out much more than pocket money.”