Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Magical Dubai trip lived up to our expectations
DUBAI'S Racing Carnival climaxed on Saturday evening at Meydan . . . and I was there!
It is difficult to separate the marvels that this area of the Emirates possesses and evaluate the racing as a sporting event. Everywhere you look when arriving at what I can honestly describe as the best sporting arena I have ever had the pleasure to attend reminds you that you are indeed at the world’s richest race meet. Extravagance knows no bounds!
If I were to tell you that as I queued to get in among a star-studded crowd I spotted Frankie Dettori also waiting patiently in line then you may get what I mean. Really, Frankie queuing to enter? If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it, but judging by the price of the winner of the $10m main event, Frankie waiting in line was not the biggest surprise of the evening.
Mentioning the price of the winner, 20-1 was the SP of Monterosso, was not something I had prior knowledge to before making it home on Monday afternoon. The fact that gambling is illegal even at the course in Dubai meant that after each result was displayed on the huge screens you still had to rely on your own estimations of what price a horse should be. Well, either that or actively try to track down what the returns were.
I'm sure colleagues in the industry appreciate the toll that working in a modern day betting shop can take on family time so when I promised my partner Tracy and son Kris that I would leave work at home I meant every word, and stayed true to it. Almost true that should read, the coverage in the Gulf News was excellent and the passion shown by the locals in a 65,000 strong crowd without the incentive of a financial interest (legally at least) was I have to say inspiring.
I took Tracy and Kris down to what is known as the 'Apron', a budget area of this magnificent structure and, although it was in all honesty a little too rowdy for me to stay for a long period with the missus and my six-year-old son, it did show the partisan support the locals had for their own horses.
Although I feel the plaudits for the event stay with Mickael Barzalona's ride on Monterosso and the tremendous showing from Cityscape in winning the Dubai Duty Free, the place positively erupted when Capponi followed Monterosso home for a Godolphin 1-2 in the big one.
Planteur beat favourite So You Think to third to complete a brilliant treble for the UAE, Ahmed Al Falasi being the proud owner of that one. Kris would argue that the highlight was Frankie Dettori's win on African Story, not for the manner of the performance but for the Dettori dismount, something that Kris then attempted without the same success from his favourite racing vantage point, Daddy’s (sunburnt) shoulders!
It would be remiss of me not to comment on the tragic loss of three horses in the twice run Dubai Gold Cup. Fox Hunt suffered a fatal leg break on the first circuit of the first running and, after a lengthy consultation, officials decided to re-run the event at the end of the card, which ultimately resulted in the deaths of Bronze Canyon and Grand Vent.
Let me first say what a brilliant job the officials did halting the race before further damage was done with Fox Hunt lying stricken not far from the turn into the final straight. It was an immensely unfortunate accident and jockey Silvestre de Sousa’s reaction spoke volumes for the people involved at the sharp end of the sport. If you were unfortunate enough to witness the incident your stomach may well have turned when you saw the horse trying to run on, obeying its natural instinct.
Natural instinct for a man, or woman for that matter, in pain is to take a step back and ensure their own well-being. Not de Sousa though and even after his crashing fall in front of the packed grandstand his first instinct was to go to the horse and comfort it, to try and prevent any further unnecessary pain and this highlights for me the depth of feeling these dedicated participants have when it comes to horses.
Disaster struck again in the re-run but there are important facts for those who thought the race should never have been re-run. All connections of all the horses were offered the chance to withdraw, none took it. All the horses were vetted vigorously in the three hours it took to get the second running underway and no problems were found. Everyone has 20/20 vision with hindsight, but what happened here is just a horrific coincidence.
Peter Scargill's piece in the Racing Post on Monday highlights the chain of events brilliantly, and I have to say the local Gulf News’s sensitivity in reporting the story also proved more objective that a few of the tabloid papers.
Of Dubai itself, this is an amazing, hospitable place where it seems no request is too much for the people who work with the general public. Service levels are immaculately high and the scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. I feel so privileged to have won this once in a lifetime trip and I have to thank Nigel Boardman of SIS, and his partner Sally, for finding the perfect balance of being there if we needed them and giving us space to enjoy ourselves.
Facilities for families in Dubai are exceptional, rivalling Florida's theme parks and beaches to the extent where Kris has said he'd rather go back here than back to America!
If a place can make you take over 400 photos in just three full days then it must have something about it, it may be a few years before my young son can look forward to being as treated as lavishly as the Racing Post and SIS have done for us though and I'd urge anyone who is hesitating on whether to enter this year’s Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition to throw your hat into the ring. It has changed my professional life so much (2012's search was launched in Tuesday's Racing Post, details also on-line). This stunning prize has also enhanced the experiences of my family too. What have you got to lose?
Fortunately for me now I have a few days off from my Scotbet Selkirk shop to recover from a fortnight’s holiday crammed into three days so a little time to catch up on Richard Fahey's long awaited victory in the William Hill Lincoln, and pick a new John Smith’s Grand National winner after a hip injury ruled out many people's fancy Prince De Beauchene from the big event a week on Saturday.
Given that I'll be appearing on the Morning Line the following Saturday for the Coral Scottish National it’s a case of no rest for the wicked, but I wouldn't have it any other way.