Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Punters insist mighty Frankel is simply the best
Regular readers will know that Frankel has captured the hearts of the punters of Selkirk and last weekend the great horse, very possibly the greatest of them all, confirmed a perfect record of fourteen consecutive wins with victory in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
A dramatic day began with doubts over whether the Wonder-horse would even compete in what was widely expected to be his swansong before retiring to stud. With the huge volume of rain we have seen it would of been a massive anti-climax if the hottest property in racing had not taken his chance. The news, not just sports sections, was dominated by the excitement generated by a horse that has almost single handedly given the sport of horseracing a massive shot in the arm, we as a nation are very quick to jump on the negatives so the very fact that Frankel had commanded so much positive press was almost as big an achievement as the horse's record itself.
Selkirk's finest had already proclaimed Frankel as their best ever, but this week I was out of my comfort zone and managed to see what this magnificent beast meant to punters from a different part of the country. This was my first week training Scotbet's staff on the new S-POS till system that is being fitted through the estate and after a quick refresher course in our Loanhead Branch on Sunday I headed up to Perth for the new installation on Tuesday.
The day proved to be massively frustrating, there were numerous problems meaning that the new system was not available to use until after five in the evening. The engineers had began work on the installation at around seven in the morning, just as I was leaving the house over one hundred miles away. Safe to say this was a bit of a culture shock for me, it normally takes me ten minutes to walk to work so a drive close to three hours wasn't part of the everyday routine in a week that would see me clock up one thousand miles.
Tuesday was also the second day of 'Frankel Week' in the Racing Post and the feature definitely wetted the punters' appetite for what was to come, already there was a buzz about the Perth shop and duty manager for the day Stuart told me that he couldn't remember such interest in a single horse in all his time in the industry.
As I drove back down the A9 I caught the tail-end of Scotland's defeat against Belguim, two second half goals from Barclays Premier League stars Benteke and Vincent Kompany capping a miserable day and making qualification for Rio 2014 nothing more than a pipe-dream for us north of the border.
With John Nellies taking over training duties in Perth it was on to a place called Cowie for me on Wednesday and what surely would be a much more productive day. I've got to thank Anne-Marie and her team Jackie, Helen and Julia for making it such a fun four days up there and putting in as much effort as they did.
It is quite a small shop, and has a refreshing business mix. You couldn't walk into many bookies and see only one FOBT, but that is all they have there. The shop however has brilliant over the counter business they are a great bunch up there, real people who appreciate a laugh and love their sport.
Anne-Marie and the team have great rapport with the punters and it proved a brilliant experience for me.
After turning in 76 hours this week I managed to get away early on Saturday, but not before watching Frankel in Cowie, along with a packed shop who, despite the distraction of the second half of the football kicking off and everything else going on, were focussed only on one horse. There were a few hearts in mouths as Frankel missed the start and the classy French horse Cirrus Des Aigles, who won in Dubai while we were there, appeared to be handling both the ground and the pace set by Frankel's stablemate Bullet Train really well.
The concern proved to be unnecessary and Frankel's victory was greeted by a massive cheer in the shop, even those who had backed some of the others at fancy each way prices seemed genuinely delighted at seeing Frankel maintain that unbeaten record. One guy, Ralph, who has followed racing for the best part of half a century was lavish in his praise. He is a real horseracing fanatic, he even developed his own website www.grandnationalrecords.co.uk and when so many people, especially those with experience such as Ralph, say Frankel is the greatest it is foolish not to take notice of it.
I said my farewells to the Cowie punters and team alike and headed home to see the family only to be greeted by my big brother Davie, who had came for a surprise visit from Glasgow. We got the kids to bed and headed out for a couple of drinks at the local here and bumped into a few bleary eyed punters who had enjoyed a successful day in the shop in Selkirk.
Ben, who has a hands on interest with the horses, revelled in Frankel's success, pointing to so often the bridesmaid Excelebration's impressive victory earlier on the Ascot card as an indication of just what Frankel has achieved over his two glorious campaigns.
A day off on Sunday followed for me and I spent most of it watching Kris play with his cousins William, Wendy-Jo, Sophie and Ethan before Davie and his two headed back to the bright lights of Glasgow and Kris got ready for school the following day. Monday meant another long drive for me to a new destination and satnav eventually assisted me to a place called Alva, near Alloa. Engineers Vinnie and A.J were already there and there was a sense that this installation would go much smoother than the previous two.
This optimism was well-founded and in Amy, Sandra and Dorothy Alva has a super team. They have a brilliant group of older 'gentlemen' early morning punters and although the shop doesn't have the big hitters that the team's work perhaps deserve it does have a really nice atmosphere in it. The girls picked up the new system very quickly to the extent that when Nigel Boardman, who came along to Dubai as SIS representative with his partner Sally and is a judge in the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition, popped his head in I was able to pop out briefly and catch up before we meet again this week at Doncaster.
When I returned to the shop there was no panic and the younger punters who had come in really appreciated the new coupons. One of the guys, Daniel plays for Stirling Albion who incredibly beat the mighty Rangers in Div 3 so when he found out I was a fan he was not slow in telling me his feat . . . even if he didn't quite make it onto the park that day.
News broke that Frankie Dettori was no longer going to be one of Godolphin's retained riders this year and punters appeared split on the news. Many pointed to Dettori's decision to ride Camelot for Coolmore as the decisive moment, but others highlighted Mickael Barzalona's rise to prominence and rumours of a disagreement many months ago.
It will be a pivotal year now for Frankie, but you would not bet against him having a hugely successful one, bookmakers have already slashed his odds for Champion Jockey.
I'll be in Alva again on Wednesday and would love to answer any questions you may have there before heading off to Doncaster on Thursday to meet the Final 24 in this year's Manager of the Year competition.
I am also really looking forward to it, as well as catching up with the judges who put me in this position. I have been told to take the trophy with me and it will be really missed on the mantelpiece, but I can guarantee whoever the next recipient may be will have a ball. Thanks for reading.