Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Pricewise plus lucky punters leaves us reeling
A MASSIVE week for Scottish Racing concluded at Ayr on Saturday when the course beat the conditions that had already denied us racing from the west coast on Thursday and cut the showpiece meeting from three days to two.
Normally bookmakers would be devastated at the loss of a day, but judging by results there will be many who would have, with hindsight, been doing a rain-dance to wash out the weekend fixture. Even before Tom Segal a.k.a. Pricewise destroyed the Saturday profit column it had been a brilliant week for our punters here at Scotbet in Selkirk. Normally when a horse wins (and didn't it romp home) at 125/1, as Semayyel did in the 3.15 at Yarmouth on Wednesday, the layers would be delighted. This time it was not just one but two punters who were celebrating as Margaret and Hughie had managed to stick their pins in it, with differing results.
Margaret, who I have wrote of before and is going through a bit of a purple patch, had a small single on it but frustratingly left it out of her multiple bets. She did not mind that one bit however when she came in to collect her winnings and in over 60 years of punting that is her biggest priced winner ever. That is some achievement when you think about it that way.
An even greater achievement was that of Hughie who not only managed to pick that winner but got another two with it in his 20p Lucky 15. His horses, all at Yarmouth, were Links Drive Dream at 7/1 in the 2:40pm and Shena's Dream at a more realistic 11/4 in the 4:20. Sandwiched in-between them were the massive winner Semayyel and his only loser on the slip, Initiator who contested the 3:50. Hughie is a self confessed technophobe so probably won't read this, although as always I did ask permission before I wrote about him and his story.
It is probably better for him that he doesn't read this in fairness and I'll explain why. When paying him out a cool £1,085.65 for the £3 he invested I asked him what on earth had made him choose such a vast priced winner. He told me that since the jockey, Freddie Tylicki, had managed a five timer the previous Saturday he thought he would go with the jockey in form. Had he noticed the Mr Tylicki had a mount in the 3:50 I have no doubt he would have thrown that one in and, had he done so, the return would have been a whopping £41,805! I didn't have the heart to tell him and to be fair I don't know if even that would of dampened his mood, he was delirious with his achievement and has been going around town with a massive smile on his face ever since.
He is a lovely man, a creature of habit and he won't change the way he bets on the strength of his win, sticking to his two Lucky 15s each day and forgetting his walking stick every other one.
On what was a marvellous week for racing in the Yarmouth area, with the horseracing taking centre stage by day and the greyhounds providing a brilliant spectacle in the evening, it is refreshing to know that somewhere many miles away sport can make people very happy.
There must have been something in the water in the Borders last week as punters took the spoils most days. Big wins were regular but none as colossal as one we heard about for some lucky William Hill punter in neighbouring Hawick.
News spreads fast in little towns and this was no different. On Ladbrokes St Leger day last Saturday there was a punter who managed, with a 10p each way Lucky 15, to scoop over £10,000. His horses, Pearl Music 9/1 (3pm Curragh), Doc Hay, who foiled a big gamble on Face the Problem by a nose in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap at 20/1, Dickie le Davoir ten minutes later in Newcastle and amazingly Encke in the big one when he halted Camelot's Triple Crown bid.
It's great to hear about these big winners and although they may be few and far between, it proves that they can happen. It has certainly put a spring in the step of the punters and as mentioned results have flowed ever since.
On to the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup then and a minefield from a punting perspective. Not so if you follow the Pricewise column in the Racing Post and not only did Tom Segal point you in the right direction of the winner he also did so when it was available at 33/1, Captain Ramius returning less than half that at the finish with an S.P of 16/1. Such is the power and following of racing's top tipster any horse he recommends tends to shorten up but to see his pick bolt up in such style in what was a fierce looking contest will have brought a tear to most bookies' eyes.
Swiss Spirit was recommended at 9/1 (although that price would be subject to a 15p rule 4) and won as your 3/1 fav while Domination was a 12/1 pick eventually obliging at 13/2.
I must point out there were an equal amount of losers selected, but no-one could grumble with those winners and they were greatly received here in Selkirk.
This weekend sees the Cambridgeshire and this, for me personally, is the race that made my career in bookmaking. I started in the industry working for William Hill when bets were settled manually rather than through the fancy tills as they are now. The Cambridgeshire was the first ever major Saturday race that I was allowed to settle. That was the day that made me feel I would love this business, and although many things have changed that day still sticks vividly in my mind.
It was eight years ago, back in 2004 and Spanish Don won the race at 100/1. Settling was pretty easy that day, a single score with the red pen did for all the bets in the big race, even though the Daily Star had napped Spanish Don. My big brother Davie had not long bought his pub and many of the punters followed the Star and got the treble figure odds so Spanish Don funded a fantastic party that evening.
We are a long way from the days of manual settling now, it's frightening to think of the speed technology has progressed since then.
I am very much looking forward to attending the BOS Wolverhampton Trade Fair on Thursday October 4 and catching up with a few familiar faces while seeing what the future will look like for the industry. ICE Totally Gaming blew me away in January and this promises to be similar, although all of the stands will be relevant as opposed to ICE where every imaginable need (and even some unimaginable!) was catered for.
I have registered to attend and that could not have been easier, I plan to do a live blog from Wolverhampton and will let you all know how it goes.
I'm also looking forward to meeting the final 24 of this year's Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year Competition at Doncaster towards the end of October and once again I find myself thanking Gill Heaney who has organised my trip, including watching the Racing Post Trophy from the Royal Box on the Saturday!
I can't thank you enough Gill for all you have done over the course of this year.
To end, well done Margaret, Hughie and everyone else who contributed to making this week a black week for the bookie in Selkirk. Dougie Robbie summed it up on Monday when he did a forecast, only to notice halfway through the race that he had written the wrong numbers. Inevitably, the ones he actually put filled the first two placings! When you've got it, you've got it.