Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Selkirk's jury acclaims Frankel as the best ever
Horseracing made mainstream news Wednesday on the first day of York's fabulous Ebor meeting, and once again the focus of that coverage was the wonder-horse that is Frankel. There were questions as to whether this phenomenon would handle the step up in trip to ten furlongs.
Of the nine that took part in the Juddmonte International you could argue that three of them were pacemakers, two running for Ballydoyle and tactically Frankel could well of been taken out of his comfort zone. For a split second you wondered if these factors would come into play, and when he missed the start you began to fear the unbeaten sequence may just come to an end.
That doubt was robustly dispelled long before the finish however as Frankel produced arguably his most impressive display and cemented his place as the world's greatest racehorse. The Selkirk punters in Scotbet have, unsurprisingly, been glowing in their praise. Many have told me Frankel is the best horse they have ever seen and others have made comparisons with the greats, Nijinsky, Dancing Brave, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard etc. I always find these comparisons difficult. I am relatively young (I like to believe) at 34 and started following racing at a late age so I am not in an ideal position to make judgement. Many punters are in a position and racing is all about opinions.
My favourite reaction to Frankel's success came from an unlikely source, and for me it highlights just what Sir Henry Cecil has achieved with his stable star. We have a great number of regulars that come through the door ever single day from all walks of life. Margaret is an absolute gem. She has been coming into the shop from as long as we have had the shop in Selkirk, and was a regular for decades before when Dominic Forte and the late Bill Hynes ran their business. She won't mind me saying she will never make a fortune with her bets but never stands to lose much, she tells me at her age she wouldn't know what to do with lots of money anyway.
When she came in this morning to put on her bets she was her usual self, and I asked her if see had watched the racing from York the previous day. In the same way as the Olympians have inspired a nation Margaret does the same for me. Her enthusiasm and attitude belie her age, she is so fit and active for an older lady but even given this, the way her face lit up when she spoke about Frankel was incredible. She tells me Frankel is the best horse she has ever seen, and that is good enough for me!
It was brilliant that Sir Henry could make it to the course to see such a majestic performance, but many of the punters were sad to see him appearing weak. For all the prizemoney and prestige your health is so much more important so I'm sure everyone would have been delighted when Sir Henry said the performance had made him "feel 20 years better".
The remaining results however did not make our punters feel any better and the first day of the Ebor meeting definitely went to us in Selkirk, although there were a few who collected thanks to a brilliant ride from William Buick on Thought Worthy at odds of 9/1 in the 3.05. Day 2 has also been profitable even with the second favourite taking four of the six races.
Newfangled was to be by far our biggest loser and it was a shame to see the horse pulled up not long after the start. I hear the horse broke its pelvis but will survive so a silver lining to that cloud thankfully.
That kind of luck continued for the majority afterwards, Derek telling me if it was not for bad luck he would have none at all. The bright side is there are still two days left for punters to recoup their money in one of the closing events of what has been the most captivating flat season I can remember. We are lucky to be in a generation that has had so many amazing performers.
I was discussing the merits of Frankel last night with another of the regional champions from the Racing Post/SiS Betting Shop Manager of the Year 2011, Gary Forbes. Gary won the Wales and Midlands division and his career has gone from strength to strength, he is now a 'Marketplace Manager'. He was telling me he is very happy to still be shop-based so as to have the interaction and banter with the punters but now he has the added responsibility of another shop to look after and potentially another two on top of that, all being well in the coming months. Gary still feels that Frankel has a bit to do to catch up with See The Stars and presents a very reasonable and logical argument to back up his case. As I said before, racing is all about opinions. On this one Gary, we can agree to disagree!
There will be a few shop managers out there who will be getting pretty excited about the Racing Post/SiS Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition right now. I remember around this time last year I was packing to head out on holiday to Disneyworld in Florida, but couldn't help be distracted by the closing stages of this competition. If you are reading and are lucky enough to still be involved in the competition at this stage you may well be feeling those same butterflies, while still not believing it could happen to you. I have had an unbelievable year, I still feel immensely lucky to have been involved with all of last year's competitors, from the 24 that met the judges at the Racing Post Trophy meeting in Doncaster to all the brilliant regional winners who gathered at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge, London.
There have been many landmark dates through the year for me, our shop team's trip to Ascot in December, where we had SIS to thank for their amazing hospitality. There was our punters' trip to Kelso thanks to Richard Landale and his team where over 100 people all had a ball, albeit at the second attempt in March after January's meeting was abandoned due to frost (frost in Scotland, who'd of thought!).
I had an amazing night at Wimbledon courtesy of the Racing Post when Eden Star took the £5,000 Racing Post Juvenile prize and I realised what a fantastic occasion a trip to the dogs can be. And of course, the once in a lifetime trip to Dubai followed, and I will be eternally grateful for all the trouble everyone involved went to in allowing my son Kris to come along.
Just a couple of weeks after that there was the Morning Line on Scottish Grand National day at Ayr, and superb tickets with thanks to the brilliant Morag Gray. That's a small taste of what next year's winner will have to look forward to, this time the star prize is a trip to Singapore.
The next date I have to 'look forward' to is on Saturday 8th September, where I will be jumping from 5,000ft from an aeroplane in order to raise some money for charity. Our punters here have been fantastic again and I must thank them again for their generosity, with a little over a fortnight to go this sleepy little town has contributed almost £900 to go with the thousand we raised when at Kelso in March.
Another grand looks on the cards and it could not go to a better cause, the Special Care Baby Unit at the local hospital. It was the punters who chose the parachute jump for me knowing my fear of heights and that fear is growing by the hour . . . thanks guys!
How lucky I am, and all this (minus the dreaded jump) awaits this year's winner, good luck to the remaining few, and good luck to all you punters out there for the remaining days at York.