RETIRED Wagga bookmaker Tom Patton admits he got "none of the action" when the legendary Hong Kong Tiger lost $193,000 on the first day of the Wagga Gold Cup carnival in 1967.
Now 84, Patton is one of the few bookmakers still living who fielded in the Murrumbidgee Turf Club betting ring as Frank Duval unleashed the greatest punting splurge in Wagga Gold Cup history.
Tagged the Hong Kong Tiger by the newspapers of the day, Duval blew the massive amount in a succession of losing bets on Town Plate day, May 11, 1967.
Duval bet heavily on the opening six races on the Town Plate card, with his only collect on Fine Steel (6-4 to 9-10) in the first event, the Maiden Hanedicap.
Splashing the story across the front page, The Daily Advertiser later reported Duval's luck subsequently soured as he plunged on losers in the next five races.
After plonking $20,000 on Brown Glove, only to have the horse narrowly beaten out by 20-1 shot Tooragannie, Duval continued to open his wallet in spectacular style.
During the afternoon Duval had losing bets ranging between $20,450 in $28,000 before launching "the biggest single plunge" of the program on top weight Free Flow in the last race.
"In a total of 26 bets he (Duval) managed to place $77,400 on the gelding before bookmakers refused to take any more money," the Advertiser reported the following day.
Carrying Duval's hopes of "getting square", Free Flow finished third to the cheers of the bookies.
Recalling the remarkable events of the Town Plate meeting, Tom Patton revealed yesterday he had not taken a bet from Duval.
"I wasn't on the rails where he (Duval) was betting," Patton said yesterday.
"I was in a circular ring near the secretary's office."
Despite not getting any of Duval's cash, Patton had a ringside seat, so to speak, as other bookmakers filled their bags.
"He (Duval) lost a lot of money, and I had a mate (bookie) who had a really good day," Patton remembers.
"He was a battler and he said to me later I won't be turning up tomorrow.
"He'd got his money and wanted to keep it."
It is now Wagga Gold Cup folklore how Frank Duval, who was later knighted, returned to the track for the Wagga Gold Cup program the following afternoon.
And in another stupendous betting spree, Duval got all of his money back, plus covering travelling expenses.
Amid a golden punting streak, Duval collected "a cool $265,000" as two of his horses, What Fun and Chanel, won on the day.
A quality filly, What Fun triumphed in the Wagga Gold Cup, edging out Gloves Off in a stirring finish, while Vignoble was third.
"He had a bonanza (of a day)," Patton recalled yesterday.
"He kept backing favourites."
In a sign of his prosperity after the Cup, Duval donated $4000 to MTC to be added to the prizemoney for Wagga Gold Cup in 1968.
By the finish of carnival, Duval had invested $500,000 with bookmakers and was able to record a $4000 profit before flying home to Sydney.
At the end of the tumultuous carnival, Duval told the Advertiser he had "backed What Fun from 7-1 to 6-4 at one stage", collecting close to $100,000.
What Fun was ridden by Sydney rider Neville Voigt, who later admitted he was confident of victory from as far out as the 800m.
For Tom Patton, the memories of the 1967 are still vibrant and amazingly exciting.
"You couldn't believe what happened," Patton said.
"It's never happened anywhere else in the world."
With Duval born and bred in Narrandera, Patton knew the self-made million personally.
"He didn't get to the races much," Patton said.
"I think he stayed Romanos when he came down in 1967. I know he caught a taxi straight from the airport."
Frank Duval was a colourful character in a marvellous era for horse racing.
With a childhood background in the Riverina, Duval tried his hand at gold prospecting before making millions in iron ore in Japan.
By 1980, however, he was bankrupt after his business interests failed - and he died a year later of a heart attack.
Beforehand, Duval's racetrack rollercoaster ride continued.
Keeping faith with the MTC, Duval returned to win the Wagga Gold Cup a second time with What Fun in 1968 before completing a rare hat-trick when Chanel won in 1969.
The MTC betting ring has never seen his like again.
1967 Wagga Gold Cup (10 furlongs)
3-1 fav WHAT FUN (F J Duval, S McNeill, J Lloyd & W J Brown' s b f 3 Chatsworth II-Suddenly. Trainer: J P Hayes) 8.8 (N Voigt) 1
6-1 GLOVES OFF 8.8 (H Cope) 2
12-1 VIGNOBLE 8.1 (K Smith) 3
Then followed: 20-1 Miss Nomer 7.12 (K Watson) 4, 25-1 Black Island 7.12 carr 7.7 (D McClune) 5, 33-1 Forgive 8.3 (W Cameron) 6, 25-1 Midfield 8.0 (N Dickens) 7, 40-1 Darylus 8.2 carr 7.13 (R De Smet) 8, 20-1 Magnetic Island 7.10 (P Andrewatha) 9, 33-1 Bergfee 7.11 (W White) 10, 100-1 Peeping Star 7.5 (N Shelton) 11, 9-2 Glo Whirl 9.4 (R Higgins) 12, 7-2 Carnival 9.12 (A Mulley) 13, 40-1 Manvaloo 7.10 (K Browne) 14, 33-1 Irish Pride 8.0 (K Langby) 15, 100-1 Belle Katrina 7.5 carr 7.7 (R Paradowski) 16, 50-1 Gold Rose 7.10 (W Burnett) last.
½ len, 1½ len. Time: 2:03.