Gambling related articles
How a Horse of a Different Color Tried to Pull
By Archie Ward
Fine Cotton was a racehorse: not a very good one,
but a racehorse nonetheless. If only he'd had a little
more speed, the scandal might not have occurred.
Fine Cotton's dismal racing career began in Queensland,
Australia, in 1978. By 1984, his notorious lack of
prowess had led his well-connected handlers to dream
up an alternate means of having him make them some
They started by purchasing a horse that was similar
in size and build to Fine Cotton. The biggest difference
between the two was the fact that the new horse, Bold
Personality, could actually run. There was, however,
another disparity. Fine Cotton was brown in color
with bright white markings on both hind legs. Bold
Personality was bay with no markings whatsoever.
Fine Cotton's connections refused to let the color
difference stop them. A few boxes of hair dye handled
that well, and as for those hind legs, white paint
would do in a pinch.
The half-baked makeover complete, the stable entered
Bold Personality under Fine Cotton's name in the Commerce
National Handicap at Brisbane's Eagle Farm Racecourse.
As the horses paraded to the post, the stewards couldn't
help but notice that "Fine Cotton," the perennial
longshot, was taking money faster than the Titanic
took on water. By the time the gates slammed open,
his odds had dropped to 7/2.
While the real Fine Cotton lounged in his stall munching
sweet timothy hay, the well-bet imposter battled it
out with early favorite Harbour Gold, beating him
by a nose at the wire. Spectator cries of "ring-in"
immediately rang in the air, and the inquiry sign
lit up fast when the stewards saw the white paint
running off the ringer's hind legs.
It didn't take long to disqualify "Fine Cotton."
The punters who had bet him down were not the only
losers. An official investigation resulted in a lifetime
banning of six of the stable's high-profile connections,
some of whom also served jail time.
The story might have ended there had it not been
for one strange fact. John Gillespie, the head of
the betting syndicate, began to brag that he'd actually
won $1.8 million on the race, having bet the bank
on the runner-up, Harbour Gold. In fact, he boasted,
he had planned the entire caper for the sole purpose
of pushing up the odds on the eventual winner.
Had the whole thing been a double swindle? Don't
ask Fine Cotton. He died at the age of 31, never having
spilled the beans.
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