HARRY FINDLAY went from being in prison to winning £20million – and just about everything else in between.
The larger-than-life gambler’s amazing story is an incredible, if sometimes cautionary tale.
There was the heart-wrenching feeling of losing £2.5m on one bet and being declared bankrupt.
And there was the sheer elation of ‘the easiest £33,000’ he ever won from his legendary horse Denman, a Gold Cup winner.
That massive windfall – absolutely loaded with unimaginable risk for you and me – came in 2006.
Denmam was running at Bangor-on-Dee. Findlay, pal Paul Barber and trainer Paul Nicholls all got a last-minute helicopter ride to get to the track to see him run.
They touched down with Findlay having placed £360,000 on the horse to win.
The odds were so short that he stood to win ‘just’ £33,000.
Findlay admitted Barber thought he was ‘stark-raving mad’ when he found out how much money he had staked.
As it turned out Denmam – who in 2007 won Findlay £1m at Cheltenham – triumphed by 17 lengths.
The same horse won the Gold Cup in March 2008 but just 18 months later Findlay’s betting got him temporarily kicked out of the sport.
Findlay was banned for six months for betting against one of his own horses to win – even though he would not have made a profit from its defeat.
The suspension given to a ‘heartbroken’ Findlay was eventually overturned in favour of a £4,500 fine after Findlay appealed.
But this is just one example of the rollercoaster ride he experienced pretty much every day in the high-stakes world of professional gambling.
The lowest point was a spell in Brixton prison in his early 20s after being convicted of credit-card fraud.
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.
But Findlay, who is now approaching 60, lost more than that on one bet in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
He had backed New Zealand to win. The All Blacks faced France in the quarter-final and looked good with a 13-3 half-time lead.
Findlay was so confident he ordered more champagne to his box at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Then France came back and won.
The only good news was that Findlay had placed another bet which covered France winning the game.
So while he still lost £2.5m on one bet, France winning meant he recouped £600,000.
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 this is just who Findlay is and that she cannot 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 chase their losses
- Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
- Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
- Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org