Synopses & Reviews
“Scandal on the Turf!” the Los Angeles Times
proclaimed. It was October 1940, a mere few months after Seabiscuit had won the Santa Anita Derby, and now this bombshell: “Six Jockeys Admit Horse Races Fixed.”
The Gambler and the Bug Boy recounts this dark chapter in horse racing history. At its center is Bernard “Big” Mooney, a flashy LA bookmaker who began his seedy career by threatening young jockeys with death if they didnt “pull” their horses. His unwilling partner is Albert Siler, a callow eighteen-year-old apprentice rider (a so-called bug boy) from eastern Oregon. Big Mooney manipulates this promising rider, while Siler tries to escape the gamblers criminal grip without ruining his career. The harrowing details of the unraveling plot and the botched court case that followed riveted the attention of the nation. Told in full for the first time, this story brings to light a little-known but fascinating horse racing scandal.
"Christgau unveils the dark underbelly of late 1930s horse racing in this melancholy, occasionally meandering history. Early on we meet Albert Siler, aka 'Prince Albert,' an 18-year-old with stars in his eyes and a stunning horse racing debut: the first day he rode a thoroughbred, he 'won five races that afternoon.' Professional horse racing takes him to a California racetrack where he runs into Barney 'Big' Mooney, a flamboyant professional gambler in 'fancy suits and a fedora,' who combines the lure of easy money with strong-armed tactics to enlist Al and other young jockeys in a race-fixing scheme. The result was the 'worst scandal in racing in 50 years,' what one attorney called 'the contamination of the sport of kings.' Christgau is skilled at making memorable characters from his subjects, so much so that he wastes significant space developing characters with little bearing on the story, and an abrupt, pat ending will leave readers scratching their heads. Though inconsistent, history-minded handicappers will find much to appreciate." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
John Christgau is the author of several works, including The Origins of the Jumpshot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball, and Tricksters in the Madhouse: Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948, both available in Bison Books editions.