Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Looking forward to Ayr and the Morning Line
As I'd imagine is the case in most betting shops, the fallout from the Grand National has pretty much dominated the conversation this week, for the early part at least. The media focus on the biggest race on the calendar was always going to fall on the negatives, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According to Pete's untimely demise being as devastating to the image of the sport as it was devastating to connections of the horses.
To say opinion has been fiery is an understatement, but one heartening thing to come out of the affair has been the measured reaction to the stinging criticism that jump racing has had to endure.
Even before the John Smith’s Grand National had seen its tightest finale in the great race’s history, through the wonders/evils of social media there were those who have been clambering to have the race done away with.
Social media. Facebook, Twitter etc. I happen to believe that these outlets are indeed a positive thing, when used correctly, but I've been glad to see the upturn in police action against those who misuse these sites. Now I am all for free speech but the relative anonymity afforded had mad it all too easy for people to say whatever they like, without having to take responsibility for their actions, whether it be within the law or not.
Sports personalities are particular targets, so hopefully it hasn't been too tough a ride for those involved in the racing industry this week although I dare say a few may of been tempted to close accounts down for good. That is not to say that people don't have a right to express opinions and many have done so in the right manner.
One thing that I have noticed, and the vast majority of the punters in the shop have commented on, is the dignified and empathetic responses that have been printed by the likes of Alastair Down, Claire Balding and Bruce Millington to name but a few.
Alastair's piece in Sunday's Racing Post was simply brilliant. Addressing all the tough questions and pre-empting the likely arguments that would head both jump racing and the Grand National’s way in particular with factual statements on improvements that have occurred and speculating on future changes, plus the impact that these may have whilst still keeping the magic of the day intact.
And all that on a timescale that would of tested Clark Kent himself! The piece I have been most impressed with though was in Thursday's Post, from straight talking Bruce Millington. It takes a brave man to advocate change, but I felt like the Churchill dog as I constantly nodded while reading through the paragraphs.
Only Thursday Great Endeavour suffered a fatal injury at home in a field. David Pipe pointed out that injuries can happen anywhere. "He wasn't going too fast, he wasn't being overcrowded and the most dangerous place for a horse is in the field" he stated. This maybe puts what happened in the Grand National a little into perspective. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, come about in time for next year’s event but whatever does should be done with only the safety of the runners and riders in mind - and not to appease that vocal minority, there is no point in change for only change’s sake.
The Coral Scottish National takes place on Saturday at Ayr and that race is sure to come under scrutiny now with the events of last weekend.
I will be appearing briefly on The Morning Line and I must admit to feeling star-struck at the thought of it. In much the same way the Champions League music captivates an audience before the big kick off, The Morning Line's introduction does the same for me. Saturday is the busiest day in Selkirk and I always have the programme on as I set up the shop, so to be appearing on it is an honour.
Tanya Stevenson was also on the judging panel of the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition and does her blog in a far more accomplished way than I ever could so it will be nice to catch up again and hear her tip for the big race. Tom Lee will be interviewing me and is the consummate professional, as well as a genuinely nice guy and took time out to give me a call beforehand to make sure I was comfortable with things. Little touches like that show why these guys are the best in the business.
I don't often put horses up and have a pretty poor success rate, but since Tom feels the same as me I'll have a go with Merigo, having won the race and finished second in the last two years, he will take a bit of beating, a real Ayr specialist. Safe to say I am normally far better at accepting bets than placing them though, you have been warned!
With a Saturday at Ayr to look forward to I think it only right to once again thank the tremendous punters who use our shop and also the team who fill it. It has been an amazing six months but the support I've received from the punters has been immense, both before when the process was going on, and more importantly afterwards when all the events have been taking place. There has never been an adverse reaction by anyone and the banter has been great . . . they have never let it go to my head.
I was in stitches Friday when I popped my head in after dropping Kris at school to be told I was in the local paper yet again. Jackie and Allan started on about how famous I was and how I should be next on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Then it was "you’re too famous for Selkirk, you should be in the big city"! Quick as a flash Jackie came back to Allan with "Aye, Peter Barlow needs an assistant".
It's that kind of thing that makes our shop what it is and to all the guys again thanks for your loyalty and your patter over the period, and the fantastic input over the last week especially. Thanks also to the team for picking up the overtime and allowing me to represent Scotbet and the competition at all these events, it is much appreciated.