Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
One of those times when it just all went wrong
You know those days. The ones where all the hot-pots go down. When it doesn't matter how big the certainty is, they just don't seem to get the job done. Who's idea was it to schedule the Ladbrokes St Leger for one of those! Saturday was to be the day when we celebrated the genius of Camelot, the first horse to complete the Triple Crown since Nijinsky managed the feat all of 42 years ago. We were to celebrate Aidan O'Brien and his historic achievement in holding all five British Classics in a calendar year. Saturday was to be a monumental day in British Horseracing history, and do you know what? It still is.
Saturday demonstrated the sheer unpredictability of this wonderful sport. I felt quite uncomfortable about Camelot's chances from the moment I wrote we'd all be reading about Camelot's victory on the Racing Post iPad app back on Tuesday. When the prospect of defeat isn't even considered in the media or by punters sport invariably throws you a curveball. Everyone wanted to speak about Camelot Saturday morning as they put on their bets and only Dougie Robbie admitted he felt uneasy, saying he had a bad feeling in his gut. Should O'Brien's (still) superstar horse have won there would have been talk from some quarters about how it was only possible due to the relative weakness of this year's three year olds.
Frankel has swept all before him and had Camelot did the same there are some who would have bemoaned how races were turning into processions, insinuating that these two were beating 'nothing'.
I would have loved to be writing about Triple Crown heroics and customers drooling about potential head to heads, but in truth Encke's victory is in a different way a positive story. Let's not forget that under Mickael Barzalona, 25/1 shot Encke turned in a fantastic display and was on the day a worthy winner.
It was a superbly well timed ride from Barzalona, which rightly saw plaudits heaped upon him, if not for his exuberant celebrations just after crossing the finishing line at Town Moor. I saw a few tweets hoping that he would taste dirt and while he may seem to get carried away with himself, I think that racing does need characters and in Barzalona they certainly have one.
So where did it all go wrong?
During the race the shop wasn't overly busy, we had about a dozen in, most regulars with a couple of guys just passing through. There was a sense of anticipation in the build up, almost a tension in fact, that was broken in typical Jackie style. Whilst we watched the scene and betting develop Jackie was transfixed on the 3:37 at Brough Park, Newcastle. His face was a picture of concentration as the two outsiders 1 and 3 stole away round the final bend and held on to land a nice forecast. He always does the two outsiders and gets his fair share of success, and the excitement of it all masked for a while the prospect of history being made.
Still though that feeling of invincibility surrounded Camelot, but as the price fluctuated between 4/9 and 2/5 punters were having smaller bets on what they considered the lively outsiders, most seeming resigned to defeat as they put on their wagers for the race. Thomas Chippendale was easily our biggest loser in the race but Colin D, who couldn't make it back to our Hawick shop in time, had stopped in and had a pop on Encke, and there were a couple of others who had a small interest. There were not many who actually plumped for Camelot but he was the one they were all there to watch. It's hard to say just exactly what did go wrong. I am loath to lay the blame for a horse's defeat at the hands of a jockey.
Jockeys work so hard and are only human, and there is not a soul out there who hasn't made a mistake at work in their life. The problem for jockeys is that in much the same way as it is for a goalkeeper in football; these mistakes are usually magnified as they tend to cost more. The initial response from the punters who were in my Scotbet shop and the ones who filtered in and out towards the end of the afternoon was that young Joseph O'Brien had blundered badly.
Dougie, who had that inkling earlier, laid the blame firmly at the jockey's door and Kenny Scott, a man of few words was also highly critical of the "inexperienced" rider. George K thought that Camelot just didn't stay pure and simple and Ian R agreed, saying that he believed O'Brien jnr would have followed instructions and was just unlucky in running.
Jack disagreed and thought much of the problem was down to complacency, citing Joseph's mistimed ride on St Nicholas Abbey some weeks back as 'proof' that the jockey is prone to a lapse in concentration.
I personally think he was caught out and the horse just didn't quicken the way he has done previously and must have done at home. There is not a jockey in the world who would know Camelot better, and you could see from how animated he became when the horse was eating up the ground in the final furlong that he expected more.
It is a shame that some people will always have that niggling doubt about what could have been, but again, we should accept the fact that we do have a sport that keeps us all on our toes.
The result reaffirms what many people may have forgot in the run-up to the Ladbrokes St Leger, not only is the Triple Crown so rare because of how infrequently it is attempted, but also because of how difficult it is.
I don't think there is any doubt Camelot will come back bigger and stronger, but for now Godolphin can rejoice in a victory that few would have dared anticipate pre-race. Add to Camelot Dundonnel, Strong Suit, Fayr Fall and Fame and Glory and all the big fancies in Selkirk went the way of the bookie. The hot-pots failures continued in football also with Celtic's defeat at St Johnstone, Rangers drawing a blank at Annan, Manchester City's failure to beat Stoke and Eden Hazard proving he is human after all by blazing over with the goal at his mercy as Chelsea could only draw with QPR.
Of course Merseyside's fight for justice, which after 23 years this week found vindication, puts sport into perspective. All of a sudden Camelot's defeat doesn't seem so 'tragic'.
This day of the sunken hotpot has been and is finally gone. From a punters' perspective, no matter when the next one arrives, it will be too soon.