Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Black Caviar set to serve up a regal Ascot climax
How fitting that 2012 is Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The Diamond Jubilee is extra special, and the same can be said of this year’s Royal Ascot, which has had absolutely everything, and at the time of writing there’s still a day still to go. Even a good old British summer hasn't dampened the spirits of the hoards of people who have turned up in Berkshire and been treated to some extraordinary racing, some fairytale stories and witnessed a fair bit of heartache as well.
Fair play to all who have actually gone along, despite the elements. Ascot could have been a PR disaster for racing this year. It has tightened up its dress code to levels that had attracted much media attention, and there will have been a few out there who would have been desperate to fill their column inches with stories of punters being rejected at the gates and others striding around the course with bright orange stickers attached, highlighting the inappropriate attire they had arrived in.
Instead it has given us the top rated horse on the planet in Frankel actually raising his stock by winning a Group 1 by eleven lengths. It has given us ‘local hero’ Frankie Dettori, Royal Ascot's most successful ever jockey, winning Thursday's feature race the Ascot Gold Cup only a couple of weeks after he had to publicly deny unfounded rumours of retirement. That win on Colour Vision caused a bit of a stir in the shop, as the half length victory was only confirmed after a stewards’ inquiry which many in the shop believe would have heralded a different result had the race been run in France or the U.S.A. There was clear interference between Colour Vision and Opinion Poll, Sheikh Mohammed's other runner in a remarkable 1-2 for Godolphin, inside the final furlong that knocked the second off balance and clearly robbed ‘understudy’ Mickael Barzalona of momentum.
Like many of my punters here in Selkirk's Scotbet, I have enjoyed seeing inside the stewards’ room on the BBC's coverage and hope Channel 4 continues with this when possible. As it happened on this occasion, discussion was brief and the winning distance always meant that an overturned result was not likely – so much to my Tracy's disappointment (she now backs every horse we saw in Dubai), Opinion Poll would do no better than second. Second was as good as it got for Her Majesty also as Carlton House was denied by another Dubai World Cup performer So You Think in the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday. It was So You Think's tenth victory at Group 1 level and incredibly took the horse's prize money through the £5 million mark.
It also provided another victory for father and son team Aidan and Joseph O'Brien and continued a remarkable season for the pair, although right now one regular, Jim, is sweating on the easy money" he told me he was picking up by backing young Joseph as top jockey for the meeting.
Once again though the sympathy in the shop went to the horse in second place and it has been an unfortunate week for three of the second placers. Carlton House would have been one of the most popular winners of the week for the Queen, Opinion Poll would surely have won without the contact from Colour Vision and there was of course Excelebration on Tuesday. Frankel is just out of this world but Excelebration would have been a four time Group 1 winner had it not been for the hottest property in racing, as hard luck stories go that is rivalling any that my co-manager Allan Fox could come up with.
Mr Fox once needed the favourite to place in the first three in an obscure bumper to bring up his Lucky 15, he had bet on the total favourites points and, with good fortune and bad weather, only three went to post. A win is 25 points, but even the 5 you get for third pushed him into winning territory, so imagine his face when his horse pulled up and failed to finish! Yep, it's hard not to feel sorry for Excelebration.
Euro 2012 has continued much in the same vein in the knockout stages as it had in the groups, and been highly entertaining, but with one crucial difference. Ronaldo's goal in Portugal's victory and Germany's 4-2 demolition of Greece mean results have been kind to punters.
Some have argued that Greece have been poor throughout the competition, but they will also be poor tomorrow and it must be heartbreaking for them that is it ‘Euro-zone kingpins’ Germany that dispelled them from these Euros.
Expectation levels seem to have risen in the English camp and having won Group D and avoided the Spanish side of the draw it will be quite hard to try and keep a lid on things. It has interesting for my customers to see the players come out and say they are "in it to win it" as Joe Hart stated, and hearing Wayne Rooney talking about the brilliant team spirit can only bode well for their hopes.
Italy are no mugs and will also fancy their chances, but the long and short of it is this England team are only three victories away from earning legend status.
Domestically, the fixture list has been released and "The Rangers" as they are now known, have been replaced on the SPL's official list as 'Club 12'. John, a lifelong diehard Celtic fan, informed me that everything would be all right for next season and pre-season friendlies had already been arranged for the blue half of Glasgow. Desperate to bite on some good news from this most unlikely source I asked who they had lined up. He took great pleasure in telling me a Spanish trip awaited for 'Club 12', the opposition being Club 18-30! Yes John, the phrase 'hook, line and sinker’ as never been more apt.
So Saturday sees the curtain come down on Royal Ascot, and the day I have been most looking forward to. Black Caviar is a sporting superstar in her homeland and I for one can't wait to see her race on these shores.
I read with great interest Bruce Millington's column in Thursday's Racing Post and surprisingly I learned that he only truly fell for the greatness of Frankel on Tuesday. He pointed out that we don't always make that special connection, and I suppose it is what makes us human.
The marketing team of Black Caviar have genius, she has raised the profile of racing in Australia in a way that no other has. I could relate to Bruce's words as I haven't warmed to the magic of Camelot for some strange reason, but do hold a grudging respect for his Derby win.
I fully expect, on Saturday, to be blown away, as trainer Peter Moody says we will, by the phenomenon that is Black Caviar, and the expected 5,000+ Aussies that will be in attendance proof of the wonder mare's popularity. 1-4 seems a short price, but this is a horse that has won 21 on the bounce, beating a subsequent 26 individual Group 1 winners in the process; remarkable.
On Saturday we can all sit back like royalty, enjoy the climax to one of the best meetings I can remember, and the luxury that is Black Caviar.