MEET the mediocre gallopers replaced with sure-fire winners, dodgy ring-ins, shocking short-cuts and biggest fixes ever to hit the track.
A DISGUISE of white paint, peroxide and brown hair dye was not enough to mask the true markings of Fine Cotton’s ring-in.
But was it just a doomed amateur scam, or actually a devious double-sting?
For years racing’s most infamous affair, the Fine Cotton scandal, was also seen as its most hapless.
A clumsy disguise of white paint, peroxide and brown hair dye was employed to mask the true markings of Bold Personality as it edged out Harbour Gold at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm in August of 1984.
Masquerading as the much slower Fine Cotton, the horse had started at 33-1, but a late plunge saw it come in to 7-2 as word of the switch spread.
After the race it took stewards only moments to satisfy themselves it was not Fine Cotton, and disqualified the horse within 40 minutes of the race ending.
Its trainer, Hayden Haitana, fled the track and went on the run, sparking a manhunt across several states.
The mastermind of the botched plan, conman John Gillespie, had recruited Haitana after meeting the trainer’s brother Pat in prison.
Gillespie bought a horse named Dashing Soltaire to be Fine Cotton’s ring-in, and had Haitana train both.
But Dashing Soltaire injured itself and another substitute had to be found.
Bold Personality was quickly purchased, but looked nothing like Fine Cotton so the shoddy disguise was applied.
But Gillespie has since made the claim that it was no bungle – but a brilliant swindle that netted millions for the syndicate backing it.
Gillespie told the Herald Sun in 2010 that the real plan was to back Harbour Gold – whose odds had gone out just as Fine Cotton’s had shortened when rumours of the ring-in were deliberately spread.
Harbour Gold was ultimately named the winner, and Gillespie claimed the plan earned its conspirators $12 million – including his own winnings of $1.8 million.
Later Gillespie’s amazing claims were ridiculed by former Sydney race stewards chairman John Schreck, who investigated the NSW link in the Fine Cotton Affair.
“Truly, Dick Francis could not think up something like that,” Mr Schreck told Brisbane’s Courier Mail.
But Gillespie skipped bail in June 1985 and was later discovered crouching in a cupboard in his sister’s house in Victoria.
He eventually pleaded guilty over the conspiracy and was jailed for four years.