Torbek wins the TROA Stakes at Seymour in 1984.
Torbek wins the TROA Stakes at Seymour in 1984.

The Plunge: Shady name change pays off for punters

RACING, arguably more than any other financial pursuit, can be dependent on right place, right time, as Barry Long and his mates discovered in early 1979.

For Long that life-changing moment came at the picturesque Seymour racecourse when a chance conversation with a wily ex-New Zealand trainer in Wayne Walters and his friend Ron Fleming planted the seed for serious financial fortune.

Long is an extremely self-effacing and matter of fact 70-year-old who back then was an employee of the Preston branch of AMP along with like-minded friends in twins Alan and Brian Jorgenson.

The trio dreamt of pulling off a betting coup that had few if any loose ends.

Naturally the most important part of setting up a plunge is finding a horse good enough to legally achieve the ultimate result of bringing the bleeding bookies to their collective knees.




The conversation with Walters and Fleming alerted Long and his mates to such a horse that was under the care of an extremely astute New Zealand horseman in Alan Jones.



The horse Walters and Fleming spoke about was a maiden galloper in New Zealand named Shady Deal, who was producing some stunning track gallops and subsequent trials when trained by Jones at Cambridge (Jones's wife, Linda, remains the recognised trial-blazer for female jockeys in Australasia).

Long remembers the conversation going along these lines.

"By the way, Alan (Jones) has a horse over there at the moment, a maiden named Shady Deal, that has been beating some of his weight-for-age horses.' Naturally my interest levels rose, so it became a matter of how do we bring the horse here?" Long recalled.



"So we flew to New Zealand, in fact stayed with Alan for about a week, where we tried to convince him to come over. Eventually he agreed."

Shady Deal’s name was changed to Torbek.
Shady Deal’s name was changed to Torbek.



Even before mobile phones and the internet, Australia was too close to New Zealand for Shady Deal to run by that name given the buzz that had surrounded the unraced son of Palm Beach.

So a new name had to be found, preferably one that was extremely similar to a "spud", or "donkey", which was the "spud" equivalent 40 years ago. Some clever research came up with a horse named Torbrek.

"We basically wanted to find the Victorian maiden horse with the longest run of outs and then get a name approved as close to it as possible. So Shady Deal became Torbek in honour of Torbrek. We were just trying to throw a few people off," Long explained.

Torbek arrived in early March and was stabled with Jones at Seymour racecourse.

If he won, Long and his mates had an agreement with Jones to buy him for $50,000.



Clean-winded and fit, Torbek was trained to the minute when Jones had to return home 10 days prior to the horse running in a division of the Strathbogie Maiden at Seymour.

Jones's reputation as someone to be respected on a racetrack ensured the horse would be closely watched when he eventually ran. So his name wasn't in the ownership and a new trainer was found.

"Alan had to go back to NZ and before he left we decided to transfer Torbek to a little-known Bendigo trainer amed Barry Fawdry. The horse was ready to go and Barry didn't need to do much," Long said.

Trainer Wayne Walters (pictured) drew Barry Long’s attention to Shady Deal.
Trainer Wayne Walters (pictured) drew Barry Long’s attention to Shady Deal.


"We entered Torbek on a Wednesday, meaning there would be a race meeting at Sydney where the biggest bookmakers in the world fielded," Long said.

"It was no good trying to get the amount of money we wanted to be at Seymour so I flew to Sydney to bet with bookies at Randwick such as Bruce McHugh, Bob Blann, Jack Waterhouse and Harry Barrett. Plus there were other meetings in South Australia and Queensland, so there was plenty of activity on that day.

"I remember saying to myself, if this horse gets beaten I won't be involved in racing again. You can't have a horse getting beaten in a Seymour maiden that has been beating WFA horses in official and unofficial trials in New Zealand. And he could handle wet or dry.

"Wayne Walters had the favourite in the rac,e called Brave Regent, and we knew Torbek had 10 lengths on him. There was one horse we were worried about that was trained by Rick Hore-Lacy, who I think was called Lord Rocky Red.

"As far as a jockey, we wanted a good, in-form rider who didn't have a really high profile. Robert Heffernan was perfect.

"Between the four or five of us, we put $80,000 on, which for some of us were our life savings. Was I nervous? Not so much about the race because we had put all the ducks in place. I was more nervous about putting the actual money on.

Torbek went on to win 23 races, including the C.F. Orr Stakes.
Torbek went on to win 23 races, including the C.F. Orr Stakes.

"The odds were around 20-1 and we averaged 7-2. We were naive in how to tackle the Sydney bookies and didn't understand that we were a pittance in their eyes. I had 25 individual bets with Bob Blann, back and forward, back and forward, in an attempt to camouflage the betting.

"After the race Bob Bland said 'Son, why didn't you just have one bet with me?'

"I saw bookmakers John Attridge and John Griffiths in the Sydney ring and I knew they were friendly with Rick Hore-Lacy, which made me feel better as I guessed they were there to back his horse.

"I was aghast to see that the first hose they backed was Torbek, so we had to move very quickly,

"We averaged 7-2 in the old, meaning we won around $300,000. I listened to it in the ring. He jumped straight on the bunny and they never saw him again. Robert Heffernan didn't move on him.

Bruce McHugh was a big Sydney bookie.
Bruce McHugh was a big Sydney bookie.

"People now try and say we won $1 million. I get tired of refuting it so I say it was actually $3 million."

Torbek was hardly a one-race wonder, racing on to win 23 of his 67 starts including the Toorak and Marlboro handicaps.

And Long, who doesn't go to the races these days, also part-owned four Melbourne Cup runners in Boldness, Astrolin and Apollo Run and Sea Legend. But it's  Torbek he will always be associated with.


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