No one would have imagined a punter to back millions of dollars on Australian horse racing.
Media tycoon Kerry Packer turned up the heat on bookies who found it tough to keep up with his gambling ways.
A good loser, Kerry Packer never showed any emotions on the racetrack, where he rarely made personal appearances except for carnival days. Losing millions of dollars in a single day,
'The Big Fella' always made sure he made some sort of a comeback, fearlessly betting as much as he lost.
Media tycoon and one of the most influential men in Australia, Kerry Packer, was well known for his lavish gambling habits. A shrewd businessman, Packer's net worth was around AUD 6.5 billion at the time of his death in December 2005.
Kerry Packer seemed to have great faith in Australian racetracks bringing him luck, placing many bets in millions of dollars. His gambling exploits extended to casinos as well. However, Kerry Packer was known as one of the most colorful characters and one of the biggest racehorse punters in the history of Australian racing.
Allegedly, Kerry Packer's gambling traits got him into trouble at a young age with his father, the late Sir Frank Packer, bailing him out of a $10,000 debt with illegal operators. Kerry Packer seemed to have as much success at gambling after that as he did in his other businesses.
The late 1980s was the time when the size of his wagers really hit the roof, with no single bookmaker being able to meet his requirements. A consortium of Sydney bookmakers joined arms to take on Packer who needed as much as $5 - $10 million a day to keep up with him.
Bookies were in for a treat on Golden Slipper Stakes day in 1987, a day when Packer's losses mounted to $7 million. Even though he lost $2 million on his horse, Christmas Tree, Kerry Packer continued to bet throughout the day.
Known as 'The Big Fella' in the racing fraternity, Kerry Packer placed most of his bets at carnival meetings, creating ripples in the betting ring every time he attended the races. However, most of his bets were through a commission agent.
A few weeks after the Golden Slipper Stakes, Packer's odd gambling ways came to the forefront in the 1987 Sydney Cup. Major Driver, a horse owned by Packer's friend and business partner, Lloyd Williams, was favorite to win the cup. However, the horse with Greg Hall in the saddle took a beating in the betting ring, with his price easing from $4.50 to $8, catching the eyes of the stewards. Packer had invested $7 million on Myocard, the hot favorite.
By the end of the carnival, Packer's losses were up to a staggering $28 million with Sydney bookmaker, Bruce McHugh. 'The Big Fell' asked McHugh to raise his limit from $5 million to $10 million and made amends with three successive wins.
Packer's penchant for betting in Australia needed to be fulfilled on the racetracks in the country since casino gambling wasn't big enough, often heading overseas for a few rounds at casino tables. Reportedly, in a span of one and a half years between 1980 and 1981 Packer lost nearly $3 million on racing.
For the most part his bets were so large that bookies found it hard to balance their books, making a horse virtually un-backable. While many followed him to the racetrack, Kerry Packer usually stood by unemotional, never to show his excitement over a win.
Packer's betting sprees continued in the 1990s with a number of record winnings that included his own horse, Mahogany, in the 1993 VRC Derby at Flemington Racecourse. Jezabeel, the 1998 Melbourne Cup winner was another successful bet by Packer, scaling down the betting odds from 14-1 to 6-1 in a matter of minutes.
Most notably, Packer was never known to socialize with the cream of society at the racetracks but rather preferred to concentrate on punting.
Kerry Packer died of kidney failure a day after Christmas in 2005, leaving behind a legacy worth over A$6.5 billion.