Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Punters take note - I'm a National jinx for Scotbet
WHAT an Easter weekend of sport. The football season is nearing its conclusion and the top titles on both sides of the border taking decisive turns with Celtic finally clinching the SPL with a resounding 6-0 demolition of Cup conquerors Kilmarnock and Manchester United grinding out a victory to take an unassailable eight-point lead in the race for English football's top prize.
Football-wise the Cup takes pride of place this weekend and wee 'Eck's' prediction of Hibs winning their first Scottish Cup in over a century moves a step nearer with a semi-final against Aberdeen, Hearts taking on Celtic in the other semi a day later at Hampden. But I'm sure there's something else on that may just eclipse the magic of the Cup this weekend . . . more on that later.
Onto the US Masters then, and what an amazing tournament that proved. Bubba Watson was indeed a worthy champion, but throughout the four days it could have been any one of a dozen big guns that donned the famous green jacket. Much to Gary Forbes (reigning Betting Shop Manager of the Year champion for Wales and the Midlands) delight Bubba produced a shot from the woods that matched any other in the competition, including a memorable flop-shot from Phil Mickelson at the notorious 15th, and putted out to win his first major and land a few tasty bets in the process.
The play-off lasted long into the night, finishing after 1am and anyone who says golf is a boring sport should have taken in the final stages of this Masters, brilliant edge of your seat entertainment.
The quest to find this year’s Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year started again with Andrew Pennington outlining how to take part in last Tuesday's Post, and it brought back lots of memories from the different stages of last year’s competition.
I keep in touch with some of last year’s participants. I noticed Kevin from Brighton, who was a fantastic man as well as manager, had visited Scotland while I was away in Dubai and it would have been great to have caught up. Sorry I missed you Kev.
It is nice to see that the rest of the guys are all doing well and making the most of things; that said I am slightly envious of this year’s crop - regardless of how far you get you have such a great time ahead of yourselves.
I arrived back in Scotland from Dubai last Monday and got back to Selkirk as Kelso's meeting on the 2nd was drawing to a close. As I listened to Radio Borders report from the meeting thoughts quickly turned to Murray Forbes, who tragically passed away after our charity day out at Kelso the previous weekend. He was retired and never missed a meeting at his local track, and it was my privilege to attend the celebration of his life which was held at Melrose on the Wednesday.
He had returned to Selkirk on the earlier of our two bus loads, and gone on to his local, telling everyone what a great day he had enjoyed. At his service his family had remarked that they were happy that his final hours had been spent this way and this had brought them some comfort.
I am not exaggerating when I say that there really is such a strong bond between the regular punters in the shop and it does feel like one of the family has gone. In typical Murray style he had requested Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' and what a fitting song for him, rarely does a single song sum up a man so well.
I've enjoyed reading Sam Twiston-Davis's column in the Racing Post on Mondays throughout the winter and his preview of his ride on Hello Bud was brilliant. I've the utmost respect for the way jockeys go about their business, risking serious injury every time they take their mounts. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam at Ascot before Christmas and he is so passionate about what he does, it really shows through from his column and I hope it all goes to plan for him. He is a favourite among our punters in Selkirk and the recognition he received at the Stobart Lesters Jockey's Awards in being voted Conditional Jockey of the Year is richly deserved.
So the big Saturday is almost upon us and it is a brilliant day to work in a betting shop. You will see faces you recognise from their annual visit last year and there will be those who have that rabbit stuck in the headlights look about them. There will be regular punters up and down the country only too willing to help out the novices and even give them the 'sure fire' winner.
Strangely I have worked for Scotbet for five John Smiths Grand Nationals and have yet to see one where the shop has made a profit! Fingers crossed for Sam that Hello Bud can cross the line first - that would make sure my jinx run would continue!
So a busy few days to come in the shop then, but at some point on Friday evening I will update my blog with what is fancied in this sleepy Borders town and some of the banter in the lead up to the nation’s favourite race. Good luck to all.