Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
TV appearance caps memorable day at Ayr
ONLY a week after the race that had the entire country talking, north of the border staged its version of the Grand National.
Since 1966 (not an easy date for us Scots) Ayr has hosted the Coral Scottish National, and this year’s encounter turned out as close an event as the one us 'jocks' don't like to talk about, when Merigo won by a bigger distance than Sir Geoff Hurst's shot had crossed the line.
Official winning distance? Well, that was a head, but even a nose would have qualified as a bigger winning distance than that shot! It really was a thrilling finish and a result that was greeted with a massive cheer from a packed grandstand, including a relieved one from myself.
Rewind seven hours and I was taking part in an interview live on Channel 4 with Tom Lee of the Morning Line. I had hoped not to be asked the dreaded ‘Well Andy, what is going to win today?’ question, but I had a fair idea it was coming regardless.
Before Captain Americo had been declared a non-runner there were 25 to choose from, and judging by how split the experts were on the race it was always going to be tough. In the end I had to go for the course specialist, the thing that finally swayed me being my son Kris going for his favourite number, 13, which just happened to be our eventual winner.
I had told the punters of Scotbet that I would be appearing briefly on the Morning Line and joked that I would be giving the winner live on air. I gather from speaking to the shop today that our Selkirk branch lost a small fortune Saturday, so nice to see most of the guys set their alarms to see me.
My phone went crazy after my segment ended and I can't thank the guys from the shop enough for the support they gave me. Someone else who deserves a special mention is my interviewer Tom Lee.
As I had said in my previous blog, Tom had taken the time to give me a call and set my mind at rest on Friday before we met at Ayr. He was on hand when I arrived at the course around 7.20am and, although he had lots to do, he took the time out to prepare me for the interview. He really could not have been better and we rehearsed the event a few times before the live take. It is so far removed from my comfort zone, but he and his hilarious camera man made me feel so at ease I would have loved to rattle on for another half hour.
After our part had ended he invited me to Channel 4's production meeting where the cast and crew meet up and prepare for the afternoon show. I have to admit to being star struck with the expertise at the table, but the banter between the guys was superb. At one point there was a discussion between Alice Plunkett and Nick Luck about who was going to take on one part of the programme, speaking with the (unpredictable) public between races. It was decided by the table that Nick would be best suited, given the article in a recent paper about his ‘army of female followers’ and the place erupted in fits of laughter.
They may be a knowledgeable bunch, but they do know how to have fun and I hope Rachael, who was taking part in the London marathon Sunday, didn't come a cropper after stealing Tom's last Malteser. I kept hold of the notes from that meeting and they will be entering my ever extending scrapbook of this amazing year.
The racing was fabulous again and I have Ayr racecourse and Morag Gray, the BHA director, to thank for organising some amazing Owners and Trainers badges for myself and our party.
My former area manager Isabelle Kelly, Tracy's dad Brian and my son Kris also came along and the four of us all had a brilliant time.
Again, in the other races, those of us who work in the shop demonstrated we are far better at taking than placing bets, but that didn't matter in the slightest as the atmosphere at the track was spectacular, a brilliant advert for Scottish racing.
I was then lucky enough to have Sunday off, but must admit I am looking forward to getting back to work Monday - there should be plenty of smiles and happy punters with bulging wallets after the tipping success. A success that prompted Tom Lee to give me a bell this morning as he was on his way to Old Trafford and point out I was one of a small number of people who had a 100 per cent tipping success rate on live TV. Again, a genuine good guy who is as passionate about the sport as anyone I have ever met and deserves all the good things that come his way.
One thing that will definitely be coming my way in the near future now is a dreaded skydive. I am fortunate to be in the position I find myself in just now, I totally meant it when I said on TV that last year’s competition was filled with tremendous people and any one of us could have won. I promised myself at the start of this adventure I would enjoy every moment, but also try hard to give something back and already £1,250 has been donated to the Special Care Baby Unit at the Borders General Hospital. I suggested to the punters they might want to choose my challenge and said the most popular forfeit would be the one I'd undertake.
My fear of heights has never been a secret, but I wish it had been as they latched onto the fact and have decided I should be jumping out of a plane.
I approached other local bookmakers we have here – and Ladbrokes have decided that it is a cause they are more than willing to help. I cannot thank Willie Martin and his staff enough for all the effort they went to in raising £250 from the shops they have nearby, and I must tip my hat to our Racing Manager Bill Stratton who has promised Scotbet will match this kind gesture.
The upshot of this being I have now raised the minimum required to be able to do the jump and Monday I will be booking the dreaded dive.
There will always be knockers of our industry and my trying to raise a few pounds for a cause close to my heart is not likely to change this, but it is just another example of what betting shop staff up and down the country are doing on a daily basis, and the punters who visit these shops are the people who are putting their hands in their pockets. Gestures like that demonstrate just how close the community feel is in and around the betting shops and it is an honour for me to have friends, colleagues and indeed 'rivals' like Willie and his team at Ladbrokes help for the cause that I am desperate to assist.
This coming week represents a new challenge for me as on Thursday I will start a training course on the new till systems that Scotbet will be rolling out over the next few months. I have been fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the first to learn this and will be travelling around branches close to where I am and demonstrating the new tills to staff when their systems are fitted.
It represents a big change for the company and will allow me to work in a few shops I haven't previously been to. If you happen to see me in your local Scotbet and have any questions I'd love to be of help.
Until then, good luck and happy punting.