Gay Future was the racehorse at the centre of an attempted fraud by an Irish betting syndicate in Great Britain in 1974 involving two chestnut horses. The plot's ringleaders were the millionaire Irish builder Tony Murphy, a racing enthusiast, and a Scottish trainer named Antony Collins.
At his stables, Collins initially presented a poorly performing horse as if it were the real Gay Future. This lowered the expectations of reviewers, and hence raised the betting odds on offer, and entered in the Ulverston Novice Hurdle at Cartmel in Cumbria to be held during the Bank holiday on 26 August. The real (Irish trained) horse was illicitly substituted, for the impostor, Arctic Chevalier, in an M6 lay-by.
On the day
The attempted fraud took place on the busiest day in the racing calendar with ten events taking place, and bets being made in numerous betting shops in London in double and triple wagers, which involved Gay Future in combination bets with two additional horses trained by Collins in earlier races at other courses. On the day, these two additional horses were withdrawn shortly before the races; they were never intended to run and remained at their stables. Numerous bets would now roll over onto Gay Future, as the conspirators had planned.
Cartmel race course, a small isolated venue, had only one telephone line at the time connecting it with the outside world. This was deliberately kept engaged to prevent enquiries being made by betting firms headquarters, and the on course Tote was over worked by accomplices to prevent other bets being placed on the horse, which would have lowered the odds from 10-1. Soap flakes were rubbed into the horse's legs to give the false impression that he was sweating. Gay Future won easily, by fifteen lengths, but bookmakers refused to pay out before an inquiry. In Ireland though, they paid out. Collins other two horses involved in the scam were discovered at this time to have remained at their stables and suspicions were further raised.
Trial and legacy
Following an investigation by Scotland Yard's Serious Crimes Squad, a trial was held at Preston Crown Court in February 1976. The two leading syndicate members, Collins and Murphy, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the bookmakers. Mr Justice Caulfield, a sympathetic judge, fined Collins £1,000 combined with a suspended prison sentence. The UK's Jockey Club barred Collins and Murphy from British racecourses for ten years. The horse, Gay Future, broke his neck and died, aged six, at a racing event in Wetherby in January 1976.
The affair was dramatised in Murphy's Stroke (1980), a TV film produced by Thames Television with Pierce Brosnan and Niall Toibin in the leads. At an event commemorating the 40th anniversary in late August 2014 at the Cartmel racecourse, Collins said that he did not regret his actions.
- "Scannel - A Nearly Perfect Coup: The Gay Future Affair", RTÉ, 24 October 2005
- Dan Buckley "The scandals that tarnished the sport of kings", Irish Examiner, 2 September 2004
- Greg Wood "Racing: A racing scam in the tradition of Trodmore", The Independent, 29 August 1998
- Chris Cook "Gay Future betting plot still holds fascination at Cartmel, 40 years on", The Guardian, 25 August 2014
- Liam O'Brien What’s the SP?: Betting on Racing: An A-Z, ebook partnership, p.61
- "Betting scams that left racing in a fix", Evening Standard, 2 September 2004
- Nick Townsend The Sure Thing: The Greatest Coup in Horse Racing History, London: Century, 2014, p.243
- Matt Majendie "Three decades of scandal", BBC Sport, 5 October 2002
- Andrew Rosthorn "Gay Future remembered at Cartmel during spooky power cut", Lancaster & North West Magazine, 27 August 2014