Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Gordon's extravagant tie destined for Scotbet's safe
EDEN STAR. What a performance in what Charlie Lister OBE had described previously as the strongest Racing Post Juvenile he could remember.
Confession time . . . prior to Tuesday I had never even attended a greyhound meeting before. My closest tracks, Shawfield to the north and Sunderland going south, are both more than a hundred miles away. I had heard that it is a fantastic evening out and on Tuesday at Wimbledon's star studded event I got to find out first hand just how good.
It's easy to see why such a large crowd was attracted, but the numbers were swelled even further with the Racing Post's tremendous promotion, where readers could cut out a coupon that gave free admission and a drink for upto four guests. Sky's cameras treated all who couldn't make it to a feast of greyhound racing, the atmosphere and quality was terrific and for me Tuesday night was clear evidence of a sport that has turned the corner and is on the up.
I've been fortunate to win this competition, the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year and there have been many highlights, but in a strange way Wimbledon may just top those.
Don't be fooled into thinking this was the perfect trip away however. After dropping Kris at school I caught the bus from Selkirk to Edinburgh, typically a 90-minute journey. Not on Tuesday morning and two and a half hours later I arrived to find that Gordon Hall, who works in Scotbet's telebetting centre and was accompanying me down, was running even later owing to a flat tyre. In his haste he forgot to bring the tie that goes with his shirt so we decided to visit a Tie Rack at the airport. There is no Tie Rack at the airport. As he panicked the thought of picking a tie up when we got to London never entered his head and we went into the only shop that sold ties in the airport - Hugo Boss. So a big hit on his credit card, along with the thud of his chin hitting the floor when the price rang up on the till ended that chapter, and prompted Gordon to declare that tie would be kept in his safe rather than his wardrobe when we got back.
I should point out that as I sit here typing, my overnight bag is enjoying an extended break at Heathrow, or Edinburgh airport, or anywhere inbetween for that matter as to be honest no-one really seems to know exactly where it is. As I say, there was more than the odd hitch in proceedings, but none of them take away what a marvellous evening Tuesday at Wimbledon was.
The company was fantastic and I survived a live interview with Gary Newbon broadcast on Sky Sports 1. It was also great catching up with a few familiar faces. Richard Hayler, managing director of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) and judge on the panel of my award was there and his banter was prolific . . . unlike his tips. He really is a great guy who does a difficult job under trying circumstances. He is someone who cares passionately about punters’ rights and bookmakers’ obligations, so the ideal man to front IBAS.
I also caught up with another judge, Racing Post’s Andrew Pennington, a name you will likely become familiar with if you aren't already due to the work he is doing on a book about the legend that is Kauto Star. It should be ready around mid-April I am told and already I am looking forward to getting my copy. Fingers crossed the book delivers the fairytale ending that Kauto deserves come Gold Cup Friday.
Back to that other Star already mentioned, Eden Star. A dominant performance and convincing win that rightly, for now at least, puts him at the head of the Greyhound Derby betting. To meet the ecstatic joint owner and trainer Barrie Draper and present him with the award was always going to be an honour, the other joint owners Messrs Atherton and Bacon joined us on the podium and it was there everything sunk in. Unbridled joy engulfed them, they could hardly speak and the most overwhelming sense was the love they had for their dog.
The feeling coming from those three and the look in their eyes will live with me for a long time to come.
The other greyhounds will come on for the run, Go Go Sonic for one running way beyond odds of 33-1, so whilst I believe that we may well have seen the eventual Derby winner in that race, I have to go with Mr Draper's words of wisdom when interviewed straight after the race that odds of 8-1 for the Derby won't have him breaking down any bookies’ doors in the morning.
Good luck to all who have aspirations of William Hill Derby success and the £125,000 top prize this year.
Before then, however, Wednesday saw the start of the Easter Bunny series, following on from the Bags Track Championship and the popular Bags/SIS 500 series. Further examples of how greyhound racing is striving to improve with innovative ideas. It certainly has one new fan that will be making it along to the odd meeting or two, even if that does mean a five-hour, 250-mile round trip.
So with Cheltenham just round the corner, and what a remarkable four days that promises/threatens to be depending on what side of the punting fence you stand, we have it all to look forward too.
Remarkably, watering has continued for the start of the Festival in a mere 12 days time, with 1.2 million gallons used already. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse is confident of good ground all round, both over the hurdles and fences, so as testing as the hill has previously been, this year may prove to be less so.
Lots to take into account, the Racing Post's Cheltenham guide will no doubt give you far more pointers than I could dream of, I'd strongly recommend a read and courtesy of the paper I’ll have some copies to give away in my Scotbet, Selkirk shop over the coming days and up until the weekend.
To recap, my job in differing ways involves me in the jolly RP Juvenile – and the winner’s Greyhound Derby dream, the fabulous Cheltenham Festival, a cracking day for the entire shop at Kelso (March 24), and my family’s once in a lifetime trip to Dubai . . . somebody pinch me!