Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Even infrequent punters have caught festival fever
AT half past one Tuesday afternoon the talking, of which there has been much, ended and the action began on the long awaited Cheltenham 2012 festival.
That opening race roar proved the first chance that Colin and I had to stop and take breath. For the next four days the calendar should read Sat 13th, Sat 14th, Sat 15th and Sat 16th such is the pandemonium that ensues when Cheltenham is upon us. And better than average Saturdays too!
From the moment the doors opened this morning it became clear that the hype surrounding the hotpots was infecting even the most hardened of punters, and the Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly, Quevega treble would have made for a disastrous start for our Scotbet Selkirk branch, along with just about everyone else. As it was Hurricane Fly let that treble down, yet Stuart McCulloch on local Radio Borders had been enthusiastic about Rock On Ruby all day long. Probably best not to go too far into the ‘I told you so’ Stuart, you'll want to keep your listeners!
Quevega was tremendous and Sprinter Sacre again immense, a fantastic round of jumping greeted in the shop with big cheers, which, to be fair had also been the case when Cinders And Ashes claimed the first. I know the Racing Post Predictor had correctly identified Cinders And Ashes as the winner, but there was an unusually high number of people picking the 10/1 chance. I had joked with the punters who were in that it was a terrible start for us, and as quick as a flash Kenny Patterson, a die-hard Celtic fan, had claimed it was all in the name and that every Rangers fan in the land would have backed it. Proof again, in the strangest of forms, every dog has his day . . . it’s not often over the last few years that Kenny can get the better of anyone with a footy joke.
I have been saying for the last few weeks I can't remember a festival that has been viewed with as much anticipation as this one. Robb Pringle is typical of Selkirk - he describes Cheltenham as his highlight of the year. It's hard to argue with something that the entire town has embraced.
Take The Sports Bar, which only opens Thursday to Sunday. This has opened all week . . . and the Conservative Club has matched those hours.
Fred, a keen and fairly knowledgeable punter who owns the popular Fleece Bar across the street, said his place was heaving.
Everyone has been entering into the spirit, punters and traders alike, and it's been great to be a part of it. It has been good to see the very infrequent punters come through the door again. Normally reserved for Gold Cup, Grand National and Derby Day they have been out in numbers early and I think that is a good indication of how the meeting has captured the imagination and can only bode well.
Racing might have its knockers, but on the whole we have, like the greyhounds with all their initiatives, a sport that heading in the right direction in terms of popularity with the public.
With the notable exception of a seven day ban for Jamie Moore for his ride on Fruity O'Rooney it looks like the new whip rules have been tightened sufficiently and we now have a rule that reflects better on the sport – and there has been no talk of it in this shop anyway
However, there was much sadness to hear of the fatal injuries sustained by Scotsirish, Garde Champetre and Educated Evans. That was a downside.
I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Racing Post's own Edward Whitaker who was crowned Sports Photographer of the Year Monday night. He took the pictures at the Racing Post/SIS Manager of the Year awards and will also be in Dubai for the World Cup at the end of the month. It is his second win and he dedicated it to his late father, James. With Edward winning that title plus the Betting Shop Awards MC Lee Mottershead previously picking up Racing Journalist of the Year I feel lucky to have been in the same room as such esteemed professionals.
So day one has passed, and although Sprinter Sacre and Quevega both obliged, and the wonderful Hunt Ball completing a marvellous rags to riches story by winning the last as a 13/2 fav, it still goes down as 1-0 to the bookies.
Dougie Robbie, in his own unique style, when asked how Cheltenham had treated the punters in the pub replied ‘Sh*te’. Yep, 1-0 alright.
Well Dougie, there is always tomorrow and I, like the rest of the country, can't wait.