Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
IJF will always stand as a tribute to a true gent
Where has this year gone? I can't believe we are already into September and the evening turf racing is gone for another year.
Monday nights will not be the same without Windsor to look forward to and unbelievably for the third successive year in Scotland summer has passed us by. It has been horrendously wet all over the country with many meetings lost, which is a big blow for the courses. They are not the only ones affected and as of this week Scotbet have decided to close most shops (there are a few exceptions) at 8pm in an attempt to cut costs over the winter months.
Whilst this will have a detrimental effect on the pay packet it will be welcomed in the Bennett household and Kris is enjoying seeing Daddy home that bit earlier, and I must admit the idea of getting to see more of the wee man is one I am relishing, but it's a stark reminder that life for the independent bookmakers has been anything but a bed of roses in recent months.
So the sun streaming through the windows come closing time is now a thing of the past, but quality action certainly is not and the next few weeks are filled with feature races and superstar horses looking to cement their names in the history books.
Frankel will be looking to wrap up the season in style on Qipco Champions Day, and few would begrudge Sir Henry Cecil another success. Whether it will confirm Frankel as 'the greatest ever' is still a raging debate, but it will not do his credentials any harm. Aidan O'Brien's dual Derby winner Camelot will also confirm himself as a legend if he justifies his short odds in Doncaster's Ladbrokes St. Leger.
Camelot will aim to be the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky all of 42 years ago, and only the second to do so since Bahram in 1935. This would be the first occasion in my lifetime that a horse has won the Triple Crown so I must admit to being mystified by the lack of enthusiasm for the achievement from the punters in the shop. As Billy pointed out, how many "could have achieved it had that been their target"? We will never know the answer to that one, but it is fair to say the St Leger has never been a race that has attracted a huge deal of ante-post wagers in the shops that I have worked in. For whatever reason it doesn't seem to be a race that captures most punters' imagination.
We have not just one but two superstar horses going for incredible feats, but there is still that annoyingly British trait of wanting more from them rather than just enjoying what we have.
Tim reckons we are very lucky to see Frankel on the course at all and had the horse had different owners then he would have called it a day at three. He says when you put things up on a pedestal then inevitably there will be those out there desperate to take the shot and knock it down.
Is Frankel the best ever? Comparisons between generations often bring disagreement. Tommy says Lionel Messi is the greatest football player ever seen, some would argue he is not the greatest from his own country, never mind the world and it is the same with horses.
People will always have favourites and seeing the Frankel story unfold makes our current cream of the crop many of our punters' 'all time number one'. There are so many things to enjoy about racing and opinions are at the heart of it all.
There will have been 49 people more interested in the 'Betting Window' section of this Tuesday's Racing Post than usual as the names of the successful candidates for the next round of the Racing Post/SiS Betting Shop Manager of the Year were announced. This section is one of my personal favourites and as well as having a look to see who'd all be having butterflies in their tummies as they await their mystery shopper in the coming weeks I noted with great interest that OpenBet have changed their mind once again about supplying screen information for independent bookmakers. This issue has been dragging on for the best part of a year now and has been the cause of great consternation among firms.
The decision by OpenBet to continue is a huge relief to many and Scotbet customers will be seeing the benefits of that decision in the very near future as on the same day that news was published we signed a deal to have new modern tills fitted and the roll-out will begin in the next few weeks.
It might not be every manager's first choice of what they wanted for Christmas, but if you work for Scotbet then the plan is that is what you will be getting, and the upgrade will enhance customer experience in the shop in line with the upgrade of the casino and website along with the new Scotbet mobile site.
Also in Tuesday's Post was news of the charity golf day in memory of local jockey Campbell Gillies, who died whilst on holiday in a swimming pool accident. It is clear that Campbell was as popular with his peers as he was with our punters and an astonishing £15,000 was raised for the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF).
Sadly, the founder of the IJF, Lord John Oaksey died the following day. I can't claim to have known much about Lord Oaksey other than to know that Oaksey house in Lambourn is named after him. The news broke early on Wednesday and it was immediately clear from punter reaction that Lord Oaksey was a giant in the sport.
As the tributes came flooding in from our punters and the racing world alike I have learned of what this extraordinary man has meant to racing. People rightly point out that his legacy will be the IJF, and the thousands of people it has helped since formation in 1964. Had the IJF not been formed who knows how many of our current jockeys would of strayed from the sport as the dangers that it poses are so great.
If you, like me, were not aware of Lord Oaksey did for racing I urge you to get and read a copy of Thursday's Racing Post. There are many poignant tributes and stories of this fantastic gentleman. The man who, after being touched off in the 1963 Grand National, riding Carrickbeg, was described by one disgruntled punter as being the "bugger who got tired before his 'orse".
Such talent in all he applied himself to, from riding to writing, pundit to presenter and the immense charity work, racing has indeed lost a true great. Brough Scott is a man who rode against Lord Oaksey in races as well as being with him in presenting and his tribute is a must read. He may well of got tired before his 'orse, but he can rest now and racing is far better for having had Lord Oaksey as part of it.
To finish, just a brief word about my own more modest charity efforts. I must say a massive thank you to everyone who has donated money to see me jump from a plane this Saturday. I will, to the disappointment of many, be attached to a parachute but the thought of it is terrifying.
At the start of the week Fraser wished me luck and donated a packet of Pampers Nappies which he says will save me a fortune in underwear, a statement greeted with howls of laughter from those who were in.
Everyone has been fantastic but I must thank a couple of people for their outstanding support. Brain Callaghan, who knows exactly what we went through while Kris was ill in the Special Care Baby Unit has been far too generous and has not stopped donating the odd bits here and there, to the extent he has donated a small fortune. Craig Lumsden and Willie Martin at Ladbrokes joined in the efforts and Scotbet matched what they managed to collect from their local shops. There has even been people who have sourced the shop address and sent donations in the post and I'm delighted to say that we have already smashed the £1,000 target I set myself when punters decided a parachute jump was what they would pay to see me do.
Thank you to each and every one of you, and all being well, I'll tell you all about it in my next blog.