Until February, 1983, Shergar was best known as a champion racehorse. Owned by the Aga Khan and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Shergar enjoyed a hugely successful three-year-old campaign, in which he won the Derby, by an unprecedented ten lengths, Irish Derby and King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. At the end of his racing career, in October, 1981, Shergar was syndicated for £10 million and sent to stand at Ballymany Stud, in Co. Kildare, Ireland.

However, less than two years later, on the evening of February 8, 1983, Shergar was abducted, along with Jim Fitzgerald, head groom at Ballymany Stud, by a group of armed, masked men and driven away in a horsebox. Fitzgerald was eventually released, four hours later and twenty miles or so away from Ballymany, but warned, upon pain of death, not to contact the Gardaí. Fitzgerald did contact stud manager Ghislain Drion who, in turn, attempted to contact the Aga Khan. It was not until eight hours after the event that the kidnapping was reported to the police service, by which time Shergar was long gone.

British horse racing journalists Derek Thompson, John Oaksey and Peter Campling were called in, at the behest of the kidnappers, to conduct ransom negotiations. However, a series of polaroid photographs of the head of a horse, alongside a copy of the ‘Irish News’, dated February 11, proved insufficient ‘proof of life’ for the owners. In any event, four days after the abduction, the kidnappers made a final telephone call, including the code phrase ‘King Neptune’ – which had earlier been given to Jim Fitzgerald – to inform negotiators that Shergar had died ‘in an accident’.

The only certainties are that Shergar was never seen alive again, his body has never been recovered and no arrests have ever been made in relation to his abduction. His fate remains an abiding mystery, subject to speculation and conjecture. The consensus, though, is that Shergar was kidnapped by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and machine gunned in a stable near Ballinamore in Co. Leitrim after injuring himself.

Anonymous Punter Wins Big

Twilight horse racing fixtures are extremely popular sports and social events and none more so than the National Hunt meeting staged at Punchestown on Friday, April 29, 2017. At least, not in the eyes of an unnamed Leicester man, who staked just £19, in the form of five £3 four-folds and a £4 five-fold, on five selections at the Co. Kildare track. All five selections won – in three out of five cases at odds significantly longer than starting price – and the anonymous Leicesterian collected the princely sum of £822,972.75 from Coral Bookmakers.

Having embarked on an evening out, the unwitting punter did not discover his good fortune until the early hours of Saturday morning. Nonetheless, the fact that he did not watch his selections run may have done his nervous system some good; his penultimate selection, Bacardys (10/1), only scraped home by a short head, while his final selection, Canardier (33/1), was strongly pressed in the closing stages before winning by three-quarters of a length.

Some of the winning margins may have been small, but the payout was the highest Coral had paid out on horse racing since the business was established by Joe Coral in 1926. Reflecting on what he described as the ‘realisation of a lifetime dream’, the lifelong gambler said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with the money, as it’s only just sinking in, but I have a few ideas and it is going to change my life.’

Simon Clare, Consumer Public Relations Director for Coral Bookmakers, was also in celebratory mood. He said, ‘This is the most incredible big-win story that we have ever encountered and a just-reward for our customer for twenty years of perseverance placing these ‘small-stake big-win’ bets day-in day-out.’

Improbable sports bet!

Perhaps one of the most improbable sports bets, winning or losing, struck in recent years was the $85,000 placed on Tiger Woods to win the 2019 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Notwithstanding the fact that Woods was attempting to win his first major championship since the 2008 US Open, the bet was all the more remarkable for the circumstances under which it was placed.

The bettor in question was James P. Adducci, a 39-year-old Wisconsin man who lived with his ailing 82-year-old father and had never before placed a sports bet. Nevertheless, Adducci sold $55,000 of Amazon shares to raise his stake money and, after being ‘knocked back’ by two other bookmakers, was finally accommodated at 14/1, for the full $85,000, by William Hill.

The rest, as they say, is history. Tiger Woods won his fifth Green Jacket, despite a bogey on the final hole, yielding a profit of $1.19 million for the intrepid Adducci. Not satisfied with the largest golf payout in company history, shortly before the PGA Championship, in May, Adducci placed $100,000 on Tiger Woods to complete the Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship, US Open and Open Championship at odds of 100/1. The potential payout was $10 million, but the excitement was short-lived as Woods shot 72, 73 in the first two rounds of the PGA Championship to miss the cut by a single stroke.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Adducci originally trained as a commodities trader, but although he described himself as a ‘day trader’, he also confessed to having been $25,000 in debt. He never really explained, at least not adequately, the rationale behind his apparently ‘crazy’ behaviour, but lack of experience certainly proved no hindrance to his success.

David Oancea – Superbowl Success

Despite his epithet, ‘Vegas Dave’, David Oancea was born in the college town of Saline, Southeast Michigan on December 10, 1976 and raised in nearby Ann Arbor. At the age of 21, Oancea moved to Hawaii, where he developed a taste for sports betting. Legend has it that he subsequently moved to Las Vegas on the pretence of attending the University of Nevada but, having secured a student loan for $10,000, placed all his money on a single winning spin of roulette.

Thereafter, Oancea abandoned his studies altogether and embarked on a path that would make him the self-proclaimed ‘best sports information consultant in the world’. He first rose to fame, or infamy, in 2015, when he backed Kansas City Royals – who were available at odds of 22/1 at the start of spring training – to win the World Series. They did so, beating New York Mets 4-1 in the best-of-seven postseason play-off to record their first victory since 1985 and netting Oancea $2.5 million.

Lo and behold, Oancea did it again the following February, collecting $2.3 million when Denver Broncos defeated odds-on favourites Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. However, on that occasion, his winnings were withheld, at least in part, because he was under investigation, for identity fraud, by the federal government. Oancea was subsequently indicted on numerous counts and only escaped conviction as the result of a plea bargain. In any event, he pled guilty of a misdemeanour, surrendered half a million dollars and was bannned from sports betting in Las Vegas for three years. He remains one of the most controversial figures in the field, with a distinctly dubious reputation.