Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Joy at Andy Murray's win, and my survival!
PASSING though Dunblane on Saturday evening we noticed a tennis academy. There must have been at least a dozen courts and every one was in use!
For 9pm on a Saturday night that is a remarkable fact and goes to show the Andy Murray effect in his home-town.
My congratulations go to him and his family; the early hours of Tuesday morning saw all of Scotland glued to the TV or radio, expectations having been heightened by his Olympics Gold, allied to the fact that despite the wind, New York had always been one of his favourites.
In my next blog, I will record what my punters have had to say – a few obviously followed Dylan Hill’s 4-1 pre-event Pricewise recommendation. Andy was fantastic and so focused.
At the risk of saying I told you so, Frankie Dettori took the feature race last weekend onboard Snow Fairy much to the delight of Ed Dunlop. Now, there is no danger of this blog becoming some sort of tipping service, those who know me know better than to back my selections. In fact, normally you can use the horses I pick to narrow the field down as I have a pretty awful record (Scottish Grand National apart!).
However, as stated in last week’s blog Frankie should never be discounted and Snow Fairy got in front in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes, beating market rivals Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey to claim an amazing seventh Group 1 victory at Leopardstown. This was the first with Frankie Dettori on board, having taken over from Ryan Moore and the win enhances a CV which already included wins in France (Prix Jean Romanet), Japan (Queen Elizabeth II Cup 2010/11), Sha Tin (Hong Kong Cup), and both British and Irish versions of the Oaks in 2010.
What makes this victory all the more impressive is the fact that this mare has battled back from a serious tendon injury to break the course record over 1m2f. Little wonder then that Ed Dunlop was ecstatic, and Snow Fairy is now generally 7/1 for the Arc at Longchamp on the first Sunday of next month.
This race unfolded as the racing in the UK was coming to a close, following on from what seems to be a successful policy in Ireland of running their feature races later in the day. Earlier we had seen Society Rock win the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock over 6f, making a much improved start than when finishing behind Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
That controversial Ascot showpiece stuck in the mind of many punters, Society Rock eye-catching when making up ground after that dreadful start to get to within two lengths of the unbeaten Aussie superstar. I'm told that this was the worst result of an otherwise damage free day in Selkirk by Allan, my co-manager who was covering in my absence.
This was the day I had been dreading. It had finally arrived and on Saturday I made my way up to Strathallan Airfield to do a solo parachute jump in aid of the Special Care Baby Unit at the Borders General Hospital.
Tracy, Kris and I left at 6.45am to get there in time for the training to start at 9am. There were meant to be six people on the course, however only five held their nerve and we began. Head instructor Eddie outlined the dangers and made clear our responsibilities as students to ensure our own safety. It is a dangerous sport, already this year there have been three serious injuries, one in particular led to the participant having eight fractures in his back after hitting the ground at 50mph.
After his talk he offered all of us the chance to leave there and then, a full refund, including deposit, was waiting if we chose that option. I am not going to lie, I was terrified and that sounded a tasty proposition. I managed to resist however, unlike the two who were sat to my right and only three continued. It was such a long day, in the end we had over ten hours of training. Each part of the course had to be signed off and failure to complete meant you couldn't jump, there were no second chances, no margin for error.
I've did some pretty silly things in my time, from swimming with Sand Tiger sharks and stingrays, to reverse bungee jumping but I have never been as scared in all my life as I was when I was told I had passed the final written test and would be jumping.
Over 12 hours after we left the house a patient Tracy and Kris got to see me suited up and head out to the plane. And that plane was tiny. Not just tiny but it also had a door removed so the ascent was bad enough without even getting to the part where I was to shuffle along and take the plunge.
The training was first class. Stuart Hughes, our instructor, describing all the dangers without making us any worse than we already were. The problem is you have to train for what happens if something does go wrong, and in training for all the bad scenarios; you then know of all the bad things that shouldn't but could go wrong.
My time had come though, there was no turning back. We were supposed to jump from 5,000ft but due to bad conditions we had to go from 3,500ft. The only thought that raced through my mind at that point was how little time there would be to correct any mishaps. For the first 1,000ft you travel at 100ft per second, accelerating to 200ft per second by the time your reach the second thousand. Given that it takes 4-5 seconds for your canopy to fill that does not leave much spare time.
I was called forward and had to edge out, feet and legs completely out of the plane, and I adopted the position I had been trained to, preparing to make the crucial exit. This is the single most dangerous part of the exercise, the part which the unfortunate guy who broke his back got wrong, leading to the problems that saw him slam into the ground. It is like time stood still as I sat on the edge, looking down as the wind rushed against me all the fields tiny squares, and rivers like they had been drawn in felt pens. It seemed the most unnatural thing in the world to be preparing to jump.
Then "GO GO GO" and I went. I fell out of the sky for those five seconds, my longest five seconds ever. Believe me when I say that you are entirely aware of all the things going on around you, the ground racing towards you as the noise of the wind engulfs you. It feels chaotic. And then, when you start to worry has it all gone horribly wrong, you are pulled upright and the parachute opens. It feels like someone has grabbed you, pulled you back from the abyss.
A quick system check, exactly as we were taught in the hours preceding, and a glance at the altitude gauge and you see you have dropped over one thousand feet. After that I have to admit the rest was brilliant fun.
The principles of steering were simple enough in theory and when put into practice it was even better. For 'playtime', the time before you reach 1,500ft, you try and take it all in whilst enjoying the most majestic of views and sublime scenery. From 1,500-800ft you manoeuvre into your landing position then finishing touches as you prepare to land. By 300ft you should have turned into your landing clearing and be facing the wind, and then comes the landing, getting the timing right is crucial.
At approximately ten feet off the ground, you 'flare' your parachute, effectively pulling the breaks and you step out of the sky. Travelling at almost 20mph it isn't the easiest thing to estimate ten feet when you have dropped 3,490ft, so I was grateful for the prompt over the radio and the landing was near perfect.
John, a great guy, had been telling me to remember girl guides’ honour for landing and he was 100 per cent right. Feet together, knees together slightly bent. Nice one John, it stuck in there!
Monday was a brilliant day back at work. Busy with everyone anxious to see how the jump went. I must have spoken about it 100 times before our 8pm closing time. I am still getting used to that earlier closing.
It is strange to think that as I lock the Scotbet door the first edition of the next day's Racing Post has just been made available via the all new iPad app. The feedback I have had from punters that have accessed the new app is really positive, the technology similar to the stuff that was on show at the ICE Totally Gaming Conference back in January.
I can't wait until it becomes available on the android market, it is a step up from the Racing Post mobile app and as the advert says, more than just a paper.
So come 8pm as I lock up this Saturday you may want to check that out and read about the first horse in decades to win the triple crown when Camelot takes the Ladbrokes St Leger. And no, I will not claim that as a tip!
Thanks for reading.