The Gambler and the Bug Boy


The Gambler and the Bug Boy

1939 Los Angeles and the Untold Story of a Horse Racing Fix

John Christgau

280 pages
14 photographs


November 2013


$23.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“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.

Author Bio

John Christgau (1934–2018) 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.


“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

“This fascinating story of gambling and corruption has not yet been told. Fortunately, John Christgau brings the title characters into light and sets the stage effectively. . . . [A] well-researched piece that recounts a great story of intrigue in a place filled with mystery.”—True West

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

“One could almost think that this entertaining work by Christgau . . . is a novel if it weren’t for the 40 pages of citations at the back. . . . Recommended . . . for those enjoying character-driven historical true crime.”—Library Journal

“Christgau tells this true crime story with skill, providing plenty of intrigue and suspense, and reminding anyone interested in racing why ‘suspicion [is] as much a part of horse racing as hope.’”—Laurie A. Sterling, Aethlon

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – The Gambler                                           

Chapter 2 – The Bug Boy                              

Chapter 3 – The Goose Girl                           

Chapter 4 – Synod                                         

Chapter 5 – Whichcee                                    

Chapter 6 – Sporting Women                        

Chapter 7 – The Biltmore Hotel                    

Chapter 8 – Buron                                         

Chapter 9 – Kandahar                                    

Chapter 10 – Pinkus and Omelet                   

Chapter 11 – English Harry                           

Chapter 12 – Testa                                         

Chapter 13 – Gate Breakin’ Adair                 

Chapter 14 – Ned and Scotty                        

Chapter 15 – Get Giesler                               

Chapter 16 – The Big Shots                           

Chapter 17 – The Dictograph Machine          

Chapter 18 – The Fateful Day                                   

Chapter 19 – The Percentage                         

Chapter 20 – July 4, 1946                              


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