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Gamblers Beware: Hurricane Fly was FIXED up by Ruby

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

Rock on Ruby

April 17th 2022 will mark the 10th anniversary of my father's death. This is a very interesting gambling story from a moment we shared together on March 13th 2012 during a race at the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival, just a month shy of his death.

The main characters in the story are a horse called 'Rock on Ruby' and a 3-legged donkey called 'Hurricane Fly', who of course, I had a €650 bet on to win. If you were to believe the world and his deluded dog, there was no way 'Hurricane Fly' could lose the race. However, I soon found out that you should not believe all that you read for 'Hurricane' could 'Fly' alright, only he was more like Icarus than Red Rum!

My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late February 2012 and was informed that he had between two weeks and two months left to live. I was living in Northern Iraq at the time, which in itself was interesting, for my family believed I was living in Turkey. I never technically lied, Your Honor, for Iraq is 'South of Turkey.' It was not my fault that they believed I was living in 'The South' of Turkey. Interestingly, over the course of one wild day in May 2014, I was actually paid $11,000 to leave Iraq that very day! It wasn't optional! That mad story is for another day! All this is besides the point for when I got word of my father's diagnosis I headed back to Ireland to visit him for a few weeks.

At the start of March each year, the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival takes place with the Irish usually wiping the floor. Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham racecourse has hosted racing since 1815 and now showcases some of the best jump racing in Britain. The highlight of which is the Cheltenham Festival, which runs for four days in March and is widely considered the pinnacle of the jump racing season. The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival included the Champions Hurdle with the brilliant (not that day) Ruby Walsh aboard 'Hurricane Fly'.

I was in the sitting room with my father watching the first races of the day unfold before the main race at 15.20. My betting slip for around €650 on Hurricane Fly was tucked safely in my pocket and I'd already started to spend the winnings in my head...or more to the point who was I going to bet on in the next race....Just before the race started the TV flashed images of one particular jockey spending several moments doing something (for what seemed like an eternity) with his stirrup. I'm guessing this happens dozens of times before a race but on this particular day my father happened to say;

"Old Tony Gavan used to always say if you seen this happen on the TV, just before the start of the race, that horse was sure to win"

Now, I had had a bad feeling about the race all day and was not comfortable with the amount of money I had on Hurricane Fly. When he said this, I knew instantly, the bet was doomed. I took note of the horse's number (8) and sure enough I was not at all surprised at the end of the race to see 'Rock on Ruby' win the race with Hurricane Fly languishing in #TURD. Naturally my curiosity was piqued so I question my father further about Tony Gavan's claim, to which he simply said;

"Old Tony Gavan used to always maintain that this was one of the signals to the bookies (betting office) near the start of the race that the 'FIX' was on."

Now, I don't know about that claim but it was sure a bizarre, yet somewhat amusing incident and when you consider the fond memory and impression it clearly left, you could rightly say, that is was worth a lot more than the €650 wagered. It was a priceless moment, in fact, which I will always remember with a wry smile on my face!

Rock on Ruby and R.I.P. Mickey Boss Leonard!

Jack Walls and Mickey 'Boss' Leonard

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