Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Do join in your betting shop's day of the year
LESS than 24 hours to go until the big race of the year: The John Smith's Grand National . . . and the anticipation has already reached fever pitch in our Scotbet shop in Selkirk.
If I didn't know any better I'd say it was National day on Friday such has been the volume of added custom. It never fails to amaze me just how big this race is. Following so closely after an exceptional Cheltenham festival you could be forgiven for thinking that this may be the year where some of the magic is lost, but once again not so. It only highlights how strongly feelings run for this great race that the fact Big Buck’s miraculous winning streak has largely gone under the radar in the shop.
17 races in a row undefeated, a £1 SP roll up on all 17 victories would have returned over £26,000!
There are quotes for Big Buck's going the rest of his career undefeated and, at as short as 5-2, it says so much about the ability of this now legendary beast of a horse that such a market would create interest.
So onto the second day and Always Waining winning the Topham for a third consecutive year barely merited a mention with the punters, with all focus still remaining on 4.15pm on Saturday.
After the first three favourites obliged on Friday I must admit I, like many of our now better off punters, found it strange to see a horse with such a proven track record go off at a retrospectively huge 11-1.
A gleeful Kenny pointed out, as he collected, you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. He then went on to tell me that the 'Jam Tarts' were a similar gift against Celtic at the weekend and it became clear the euphoria of the win had gone to his head!
That said, I promised to include his big tip of an Edinburgh Derby Scottish Cup final so here it is Kenny, personally I think you have got about as much chance of riding the winner of the National, never mind picking it!
So the early Liverpool results definitely went against us, but the day in the end probably ended up about equal with the much fancied Fingal Bay being beaten by a little under two lengths and knocking down a strangely high number of multi-horse accumulators for such a high profile meeting.
Saturday I'm sure will see no such betting patterns as everyone attempts to find the elusive winner that will see the once a year punters flood betting shops up and down the land.
I feel really sorry regular punters on National day. These guys and girls enjoy the time they spend in the shops and are entertained by the fare on show and the banter in the shops. There are of course many different busy days where the quality of racing is top drawer, but nothing compares to The Grand National in terms of business levels and the regulars are almost swept away by wave after wave of people converging on the counter.
There are a few guys who I will see maybe 90 per cent of the days I work who have put their bet on for tomorrow already, and will now watch the action unfold on the BBC. For those of who do not frequent the shops on a regular basis, please do not be intimidated by the hustle and bustle of wherever you chose to place your annual wager. Like most shops, we will over-staff and have a couple of people out on the floor to help with writing your bets, explaining the special Grand National slips and offering assistance with early prices.
At the counter staff will be frantically trying to accept and process bets, but even if it may appear staff are too busy this is never the case and we will be only too willing to take a break from the screen to help with your enquiries.
You get to know staff from other shops and speaking to them I can honestly say we all relish working on the big day, I genuinely have never heard anyone say otherwise. It's a bit like a rollercoaster, you strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. Over before you know it and an adrenaline rush, a real thrill.
If you were not lucky enough to be one of the people who boarded the now famous/infamous Selkirk bus from the Towns Arms Pub to Liverpool this morning then the place to watch the National is for the final time on the BBC before it moves over to Channel 4, as it has been for over 50 years.
The coverage over that time has been first class and this year’s meeting is proving no different. There have been a great many peoples' Grand National memories built on this coverage and lots of iconic stories have been re-lived as the nostalgic tales have flowed.
The story I have of the National is as humorous as it is true, and my poor father has never been allowed to forget it. In what must have been the early years of BBC coverage before I was born (I'm 33 believe it or not, it was a hard paper round!) my Mum would always give my Dad money to go down the bookies and put on not just the winner of the hardest race to pick but the 1-2-3. And every year my 'Auld Da' would take the cash and head down to the pub, because in a race like this there is no way you could pick the first three, and in the right order, is there?
One fateful year my jolly Dad stumbled home on a Saturday evening to discover all the nearest and dearest celebrating my Mum's life-changing win. Born that day was the story that makes my Dad run for cover whenever the Grand National is mentioned, and even Friday afternoon when I gave him a call for a wee quote to put in this Blog he was like a shamed criminal caught in the act. His response was "no comment".
My Mum had Synchronised in the Gold Cup and fancies it again, but she will be in a small minority that will not bet on the great race, she hasn't since.
To sum things up for Scotbet as things stand our biggest losers are last year’s winner Ballabriggs, my Tracy's choice Shakalakaboomboom and the lively outsider being Black Apalachi. No doubt this will all change Saturday in the chaos that is bound to ensue but my son Kris is adamant that number 13 will emerge victorious, and the way he was picking them in Dubai; well that's good enough for me.
Whatever your preference Saturday I wish all you punters the best of luck, and all you betting shop staff out there buckle up, it'll be some ride!