Barney Curley,  the Irish former horse racing trainer who is widely regarded as one of the best-ever gamblers, has passed away at the age of 81.

Curley passed away peacefully at Newmarket last Sunday, following a battle with cancer.

Known for being one of the most interesting characters in horse racing, Curley donated to charitable causes in Africa and elsewhere.

One of the greatest punters 

During his time as a professional gambler, Curley won millions in bets long before the days of online casinos. In particular, he’s well-known for the Yellow Sam coup of 1975. During that, £306,000 was won; in today’s economy, that would have been worth roughly £2 million.

Horse racing jockey Tom Queally shared his tributes to Curley and had the following to say.

“I was champion apprentice in Ireland, but after that things got worse. Nobody paid much attention at the time because I was still in school and my parents wanted me to have an education that people would have now, but Barney made contact with my parents and I laugh thinking back to the apprentice row with trainers last year because I’d seen it from all sides as an apprentice, and I was absolutely blessed with Barney.

“He never took a penny off me and he found me a mortgage and also acted as a guarantor for it.

“I ended up moving to England and riding out for him and he held my licence; I think it’s only me and Shane Kelly who were apprenticed to him. He impressed me and I was in awe of him, but I could always look him in the eye.”

“He had the sharpest brain in the game – end of. He knew what he wanted, where he was and where he was going. One of the things I’m most proud of is I rode for him consistently, from the time I came over to the time he stopped training.”

A charity man

Outside of horse racing and gambling, Curley was well-known for his charity work. He founded Direct Aid for Africa in 1996, along with donating to various other causes.

John Butler, who was Curley’s assistant for numerous years, commended what his former boss did to help those in need around the world.

He said:

“His charity was his main thing the last 10 or 15 years, it was always the charity no matter what.

“Every day it was his charity. On several occasions, we emptied furniture out of schools and filled containers and he always went away and the charity came first. The horses were there, but the charity was a massive thing.

“You could spend all night talking about him. He was very good to me, he was just one of those people.”