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How best horse racing punters ever from McDonald’s worker turned billionaire to the ‘Great Gatsby of gambling’ won big

THE greatest horse racing punters ever have stung the bookies for more than a BILLION quid.

But their backgrounds could not be more different.

Findlay, right, went from prison to winning £20million[/caption]

There is the former McDonald’s worker who became arguably the most successful bettor ever.


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There is the ex-con who won £20million and the Cambridge-educated maths genius known as the ‘baby-faced assassin’.

It takes all shapes and sizes, all intellects and methods to bash the bookies when it comes to the nags.

Perhaps none were more famous than Barney Curley, the legendary Irish punter whose Yellow Sam coup has gone down in history – even more so since Curley’s sad recent death.

Here, SunSport looks at some of the most amazing punters around the world – and how they made their money.

From McDonald’s to a billion dollars

American Bill Benter is a specialist with numbers and produced computer software capable of predicting the outcome of races.

He is widely regarded as the first – and probably only – billionaire bettor.

Behind the cash is a ‘computer nerd’ and complex system he devised that takes into account 130 different variables per horse per race.

In fact, the level of his betting was such that he would place more than 50,000 bets PER RACE.

Benter devised a system that beat the bookies to the tune of a billion dollars

He was so successful that he once even refused to cash in an £11.8m winning bet because he thought it was ‘unsporting’ the way his system had won.

Benter is believed to have won more than $1billion betting – around £700m.

Not bad for someone who once applied for the night cleaner shift at McDonald’s.

‘The Joker’ who lives in the world’s most expensive apartment block

Zeljko Ranogajec, 59, is not your average punter.

For starters, he’s won his bet before the horses even leave the stalls thanks to a unique ‘rebate’ system he uses.

The secretive Australian – nicknamed the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ because he is so rarely seen – has used the scheme so well he is now worth £333m.

Not afraid to bet big and spend big, Ranogajec bought a flat in the world’s most expensive apartment block in London.

Ranogajec is thought to be the world’s biggest racing punter[/caption]
The punter is nicknamed ‘The Joker’[/caption]
The genius punter drives this Lambo with a starting price of £270,000
The interior of one of the flats at One Hyde Park – where Ranogajec bought an apartment[/caption]

He drives a Lamborghini Aventador with a starting price of £270,000 and has a multi-million pound property empire.

Ranogajec is estimated to stake around £1.6bn a year, employing a small army of people to do his research and wagering for him.

Like Benter, he used a complex system to work out who would win – but also benefited from a type of cashback known as a ‘rebate’.

Some times this would be as much as 20 per cent – a fair chunk back for Ranogajec whether the horse won or lost.

The ‘baby-faced assassin’

Patrick Veitch is believed to have won more than £10m during his punting career – but his most famous win came from his own horse.

Veitch, a former Cambridge maths whizz who flew to racecourses in a private helicopter and was nicknamed the ‘Great Gatsby of gambling’, owned Exponential.


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The horse finished last on its first start at Beverley. He was sent off at 25-1 and finished a massive 17 lengths behind the eventual winner.

But Veitch knew that wasn’t his true showing. Unfortunately for the bookies, they didn’t.

Exponential’s work at home had improved two-fold and the 100-1 price the horse opened up for its next race at Nottingham was too good to turn down.

Veitch saw an opportunity and his military men on the ground – those used up and down the country to get his bets on in black-listed bookies – quickly went to work.

Veitch was dubbed the ‘baby-faced assassin’ in the betting ring

The price quickly shrunk into 8-1 as the money piled on… and then back into Veitch’s pockets.

Ladbrokes reported a loss of £160,000 and Veitch is believed to have won around £500,000 in all.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Someone did once threaten to break his legs unless he gave him £70,000.

But the issue went to court and those responsible were jailed.

Nowadays it’s Veitch, a quiet character behind the scenes, who keeps the bookies up at night.

The Playboy Punter

Alan Woods was regarded as a pioneering bettor who at his death was worth around £275m.

A contradictory genius who was ‘off the charts’ with numbers but got kicked out of uni for failing his exams, Woods paved the way for the big hitters of today.

Not that he seemed bothered by it all.

In one interview, the journalist recalled how Woods – who once quit betting after losing $100 in one day – came back from the toilet to nonchalantly declare he had just landed a seven-figure jackpot.

Woods was known as the ‘Playboy Punter’ and amassed a fortune thanks to using his brilliant mathematical skills on horse racing
Getty Images - Getty
The Australian punter made millions from racing at Happy Valley in Hong Kong, but never visited the track[/caption]

Writing in The Monthly, the reporter told how Woods said: “We just won a million dollars.

“I checked the computer on the way back from the bathroom. We’re up a million on today’s meeting.”

How could anyone be so calm with so much money at stake?

Well, Australian Woods employed a team of people to do his work for him.

When you’re called Mr Huge, you need other people to help out.

From prison to £20m

They say punting is a game of highs and lows – but Harry Findlay took that to extremes.

There was the sheer gut-wrenching agony of losing £2.5m on one bet.

Then there was the elation of the ‘easiest £33,000’ he ever won from his Gold Cup-winning horse Denman.

But the lowest point was a spell in Brixton prison in his early 20s after being convicted of credit-card fraud.

David Bebber - The Times
Findlay is the larger-than-life punter who made a fortune – and lost it again – on the horses[/caption]

Findlay said he got arrested ‘in the members’ bar at Wentworth, stood right next to Nick Faldo and Greg Norman after they’d won the semi-finals of the 1983 World Matchplay’.

Some 15 years later, during the 1998 World Cup, a bad run had him £200,000 in debt and ready to sell his mum’s house to cover losses.

By the time Zinedine Zidane lifted the trophy after beating Brazil in the final he was £2m up after a run of winners.

Amid all the madness and eye-watering sums of money is loyal wife Kay, who has been with Findlay more than 30 years.

But she knows the punting is just who Findlay is and that she would never be able to tame the gambler inside him.

As the man himself put it when speaking to The Guardian: “I’m a bloody gambler. That ain’t changing.”


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Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare –
  • Gamble Aware –

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