Project Description

The Gambler and the Bug Boy

1939 Los Angeles- The Untold Story of a Horse Racing Fix



“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 L.A. bookmaker who began his seedy career by threatening young jockeys with death if they didn’t “pull” their horses. His unwilling partner is Albert Siler, a callow, eighteen-year-old apprentice rider (a so-called bug boy) from eastern Oregon. John Christgau tells how Big Mooney manipulated this promising rider and how Siler tried to escape the gambler’s criminal grip without ruining his career. Christgau’s book gives all the harrowing details of the unraveling plot and the botched court case that followed which riveted the attention of the nation. Told in full for the first time, this story brings to light a little-known but important horse racing scandal.

“In his customary fashion, John Christgau has spun an engrossing tale, rich in salient detail and peopled with memorable characters. From the starting gate to the finish line, The Gambler and the Bug Boy is a winner.”
Jay Feldman, author of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards and Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream

“Recounts a great story of intrigue in a place filled with mystery . . . the stuff of legend. A very strong narrative rings at the heart of this story.”
True West Magazine

“Christgau is skilled at making memorable characters from his subjects . . . history minded handicappers will find much to appreciate.
Publishers Weekly

“One could almost think this entertaining work . . . is a novel. Christgau brings this ‘Scandal on the Turf’ back to light and life.”
Library Journal

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