Home   Newmarket   News   Article

Tributes paid to Newmarket's Barney Curley who has died aged 81

Tributes have been paid to former Newmarket trainer, arch punter, and charity founder, Barney Curley, who died on Sunday aged 81.

Mr Curley, of Cleveland House Stables, earned his living through betting and his methods often put him at odds with racing’s authorities and the bookmakers who he spent most of his life plotting to outfox.

He ran a small yard and owned all the horses he trained. His methods raised eyebrows but he always insisted he operated within the rules. Horses would be run on ground that did not suit them or over a distance too long or too short when they were being laid out for a race when Mr Curley’s money would be down.

Barney Curley, with Frankie Dettori and Lester Piggott, at the launch of his book, Giving a Little Back
Barney Curley, with Frankie Dettori and Lester Piggott, at the launch of his book, Giving a Little Back

Punters also had to be on their toes as Mr Curley had been known to replace an unknown inexperienced rider with an experienced jockey just before the off when his money was already down at a better price and, in the yard, lads who worked for him often had no idea which horses they were riding on the gallops as there were no name plates on any stable doors.

In December 1995 tragedy struck when Mr Curley’s 18-year-old son Charlie was killed in a road crash just outside Newmarket.

The following year he co-founded the charity Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA) in Zambia, working to improve healthcare and education in the country.

He nurtured the careers of jockeys including Frankie Dettori, Declan Murphy, Tom Queally and Jamie Spencer, who said: “He didn’t suffer fools gladly but had a heart the size of the universe and wanted the best for you and he did a lot for a lot of people and probably did a lot more that will never become public knowledge.”

Frankie Dettori added: “He was responsible for getting me the job with John Gosden in my early 20s. He guided me right through to the end and I’ll miss him.”

And trainer Sir Mark Prescott added: “He was the first person to think of putting his house up for a raffle and it made about three times the money.”

Mr Curley's funeral will be held at noon on June 8 at Newmarket's Catholic Church.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk

Read more: All the latest news from Newmarket