Racing has always attracted trickery, schemes and coups. But what follows is without doubt is the most delicious con of all time.
The greatest sting in the history of horse racing took place on August 1, 1898. It was without doubt the most audacious scheme ever thought up. A very naughty group of individuals invented a whole days racing, the horses, the riders and even the course – and walked away with an amount worth millions today and remarkably were never caught.
On the morning of July 22nd 1898, a top hatted gentleman going by the name of Mr G Martin from St Ives in Cornwall, presented himself at the offices of The Sportsman, a London based daily sports newspaper. He offered to provide the paper with details of all the races being held at Trodmore in Cornwall on the 1st of August. It was a bank holiday, traditionally one of the busiest racing days of the year with meetings taking place all over the country. With the papers racing journalists likely to be extremely busy, the paper was very grateful to get any help it could. It agreed to print the race card and accepted the mysterious Mr Martin`s offer that, for a small fee, he would send over the results of the day by telegram.
No one questioned Mr Martin`s credentials, nor the existence of Trodmore, or even the names of any of the horses or riders. When the day arrived The Sportsman dutifully printed the race card for Trodmore and the gang got to work. Clutching copies of the paper, they toured London`s street bookies, pointing out the relevant page and betting heavily on the favourites. The odds were never greater than 5/1, attractive but not long enough to raise suspicion. One horse that was heavily backed at 5/1 was in the fourth race, a horse called Reaper.
In the late afternoon Mr Martin duly sent his telegram containing the results which appeared in the next days Sportsman. This was good enough for most bookmakers who started paying out large amounts to the gang. However, some bookies held back payment baffled that the results had not also appeared in a rival racing paper, The Sporting Life. So Mr Martin arranged for The Sporting Life to publish them too.
An unfortunate typesetting error there cost the gang an even greater fortune. The paper gave Reapers starting price as 5/2 instead of 5/1 printed in the Sportsman. The bookies started asking questions “Which odds were correct?”, “Why have we never heard of Reaper?” and “Where the hell is Trodmore?”
Somewhat confused and with alarm bells ringing they tried to contact the racecourse, which proved impossible as Trodmore was nowhere to be found on any map of Cornwall.
None of them had ever existed. And soon it was as if Mr Martin and his gang had never existed either. They simply vanished without trace…..