Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Punchestown proves an all too secret UK joy
It has been a strange week in the shop, the biggest talking point unbelievably being the weather. Drought? It has been anything but dry, and it has been a hard time for punters, although the weekend at least has provided some much needed respite for Selkirk's finest.
Tidal Bay on Saturday provided a fitting end to an incredible season of jump racing with a magnificent performance in the Bet365 Gold Cup, winning with any amount in hand as top weight. We have also had six from seven winning favourites at Market Rasen and that coupled with wins for Memory Cloth in Ripon's opener, Gulf of Naples a couple of races later, and the well backed Sanctuaire which preceded Tidal Bay's success at Sandown meant a tidal wave of money flowing to the punters, and a very lucky one in particular who has asked to remain nameless.
Saturday has been the exception to the rule however and, as Tommy points out, we should not be in the least bit surprised by this. Right now we have some young Flat horses making their first appearances on tracks the length and breadth of the land and from a punting perspective it is difficult to know who has their horses ready, and which yards will need a bit more time to get firing.
To make matters worse we have went from hosepipe bans in parts of England to having numerous meetings abandoned due to waterlogging, and the meetings that went ahead did so in bottomless ground. Not exactly the most predictable cocktail of circumstances.
Traditionally in Selkirk this is a quieter time for the shop, the people who prefer Flat racing finding their feet again and there are a few from the jumps camp who, having seen them every day over the last few months, will fade into occasional punters, with even some only to be seen at weekends.
The Punchestown festival epitomises this eerie feeling. I love the meeting, superb quality racing year in year out, but I believe due to the coverage in the daily papers and tabloids, or more to the point the distinct lack of coverage, this high standard meeting goes largely unnoticed by most.
Many people just don't realise it is on until they come into the shop and see it advertised as the feature meeting on our board. That is such a strange sight when you consider the volume of custom at events such as Cheltenham and Aintree then compare it to this week where Punchestown is to a similar if not equal standard then it is hard to think of any other reason but the lack of information readily available.
That said, conditions this year may have put people off, with Wednesday in particular being awful. The chases had to be postponed and to the naked eye it looked as though the horses were running through streams at times, many in the shop expressing disbelief at the remaining races taking place. Take place they did though and again I have to say that the punters who got involved all thought it was a good spectacle, if not a profitable one.
Black Caviar scored a record breaking 20th win from 20 starts before we even opened our doors this morning and it seemed this was going to be a mammoth weekend, but sadly this was a false dawn.
There has been lots of talk of a Frankel versus Black Caviar showdown and I'm sure it is something that we'd all love to see, fingers crossed that we get to see the finest sprinters from both hemispheres clash and we get a definitive answer as to who is the best.
A quieter Saturday in football terms at least could be put down to the final round of Championship matches all kicking off simultaneously at the earlier that usual time of 12.30. We had lots of people mulling over their coupons later on this afternoon only to be caught out and the absence of that division in their reckoning made many give up completely. It's strange as we have become so used to football kicking off at convenient times for TV, which usually means later at night. Football fans are often the last people thought of when kick offs are re-scheduled, but if its not going to be 3pm on a Saturday afternoon I can't think that two and a half hours earlier would be most fans’ next best preference.
What that does mean though is that Edinburgh's visit to Ulster in the Heineken Cup semi final only has to compete with Liverpool's adventure into Wales and with Swansea already safe and the Anfield club not having a great deal left to play for in terms of the league the rugby has seen a bigger than usual chunk of business. Edinburgh, as underdogs have already defeated the much fancied Toulouse in the quarter finals. It would be brilliant for Scottish sport in general if the capital side could see off their Irish opponents, but in particular the City of Edinburgh who could then see three teams competing in two finals, with the Scottish Cup Final being an all Edinburgh affair for the first time in 116 years.
Wimbledon on Friday saw the start of the William Hill Greyhound Derby with Eden Star, emphatic winner of the Racing Post Juvenile, appearing on Saturday. After tipping the winner of the Scottish National live on Channel 4 last week, I can guarantee everyone reading that Eden Star will qualify for Round 2. The fact that the first five qualify should help my bold prediction, but as if that were not enough trap 1 is vacant so you may now see where such confidence emanates from.
After seeing Eden Star in the flesh it would not surprise me if he were to go on and claim the £125,000 sponsor’s prize, but there is stiff competition and Bubbly Phoenix was the star of the show on the opening night of heats in not the go faster stripes of trap 6 but the Union Jack Jacket, a brilliantly original idea commemorating the Queen's Golden Jubilee year.
As if that jacket was not eye-catching enough then the offer for free entry and a pint for up to four people in the Racing Post certainly should be. Valid for all rounds up to and including the semi-final stage, and discounted tickets for the final itself, it's an offer not to be missed. Catch the action live on Sky Sports from the third round onwards (Saturday May 24, it’s the last 48 and the first night all the qualifiers appear together)
Good luck to all involved and I look forward to a busier week ahead, with the highlight Qipco Guineas weekend and the re-appearance of Camelot, last season’s Doncaster Racing Post Trophy hero, and hot favourite to repeat the feat in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday.