Weblog: The view from the Hills
Reindeer offer variety but can't top 'Don's £125k pot
We here at William Hill love a good Derby. Be it the Epsom Classic or Wimbledon’s premier prize for the pooches . . .of course we couldn’t pass up the chance to be involved with the reindeer equivalent.
Moving up a gear from the famed greyhound vs pigeon PR stunt, we hosted the inaugural William Hill Reindeer Derby – across a flying two furlongs of the Kempton Park Poly – ahead of the Winter Festival.
Although the night was marketed at Christmas parties, there was a real family feel - the parade ring was uber popular, where the kids had the chance to get up-close and personal with the antlered-ones pre-race. Unfortunately, Rudolph wasn’t up to taking part in this renewal, trainer citing red nose.
Sponsorship manager Jennie Prest and I stood to admire the beautiful creatures. We heard a trickling noise and glanced at what appeared to be Cupid answering a call of nature. After which Jennie mutters “hmm, bit lighter . . .”.
That was her theory on where the Prest pounds would be going. Mine however, was to plump for the steed with the smallest antlers, less to weigh them down, not too dissimilar a theory actually.
A slightly surreal tipster session hosted by Santa’s elf and Kate Miller prompted me to make my way to the rails. Starter let them go . . . unfortunately all eight decided to do a Sariska and plant themselves at the start. Rudolph would have never been part of these unruly shenanigans, surely.
Cue Kempton crew waving tempter carrots and Kate whistling at the finish line to cajole them into something more than a dawdle. All highly bizarre scenes. Just the kind of thing loved by Americans. In fact, the YouTube vid went viral and found its way into the loving arms of Good Morning America.
The appropriately-titled Dasher made it to the line first. A relative outsider in the market, it proves success at betting on reindeer racing really does come from backing them purely based on the name. Donner and Vixen filled the minors, with a trophy filled with the finest carrots Sainsbury’s had to offer presented to the winner. In the wonderful world of hindsight, I should have been on – Dasher had won the practice version which we held a fortnight prior. Course form ’n all that . . .
A very different crowd lined the Sunbury venue on December 26th, I’m surprised Amy Starkey (Kempton MD) has any grandstand left following the cheers of epic proportions witnessed as Kauto completed the King George quintet.
A great day for the punters, what with every single fav on the card going in – Kauto the exception - however being who he is, still served us up a shocker. But we’re used to that. We’re talking sponsorship though, it went right off - with the roof of the grandstand I’m guessing. The perfect result to round off 2011.
Looking ahead, the 2012 Olympic year should not only be huge for sport in general, but also a monster year on the greyhound side of things with the williamhill.com Derby boasting a mammoth £125,000 pot, with increased funds up for grabs for the ladies (Oaks) and stayers (St Leger) too. And what better way to kick it off with all time Derby winning-most trainer Charlie Lister being OBE’d by HRH?!