Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Sometimes just getting on with it can prove fun
The Betfred Cambridgeshire. I'm getting more and more convinced that it is an event sent to try me. Eight years ago, in a smokey William Hill shop up a back alley, I manually settled bets on a Saturday for the first time when Spanish Don triumphed. This year was equally as challenging in very different circumstances. Due to a mixture of confusion over the rota and family commitments for other members of staff I was left to fend for myself while the weekend action raged all around me.
To say it was hectic was an understatement, but I have to admit that while I wouldn't like to do it every weekend I really quite enjoyed it this Saturday and Sunday. It was a great weekend of sport, the Ryder Cup as ever attracting a huge volume of bets and a joyous result for those who believed in the European team. It was mini-miracle Martin Kaymer whose putt retained the trophy in the most unlikely of circumstances.
The William Hill Scottish Cup also started for the 3rd Division Clubs up north and I still can't get my head around the fact that means Rangers were up against Forres Mechanics. The Ibrox men seeing off their feisty opponents by a single goal and never comfortable up north in stark contrast to their magnificent midweek performance when they saw off Premier League leaders Motherwell to progress in the C.I.S League Cup.
The magic of the Cup meant that there were a few upsets and Yarrow Park in Selkirk almost provided a venue for one of them. Selkirk were host to hot favourites Vale of Leithen on Saturday and it took a late equaliser from the Edinburgh outfit to cancel out Ryan Pritchard's first half opener. The Vale brought a great crowd down with them. Couple that with an expectant home support and the shop was busy and boisterous, some good natured banter and understanding punters as I rushed around dealing with everyone's requests. I still find it strange being recognised as the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year and several of the travelling support commented on how good I must be if I am trusted to look after the place alone on what was a packed day!
I do have to thank all the customers that were in on Saturday, regulars and day-trippers, for being so understanding and making it such an enjoyable day to work. Of course, people are always more understanding when they are winning and in Bronze Angel they found that one. Whether it was the fact that it was bottom weight and William Buick was doing the steering, or that the scourge that is Pricewise had highlighted it a couple of weeks ago (when the horse was a 25/1 chance) people were not slow latching onboard.
Best backed of the weekend was undoubtedly John Gosden's Maureen in the Jaguar Cars Cheveley Park Stakes which fell by the wayside. Whilst not helping Gosden's Trainer's Championship cause, not too much harm was done and on the day he actually extended his lead over Aidan O'Brien. Elusive Kate picked up a healthy £34,000 for finishing second in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes and with the sudden slump from O'Brien's charges since Camelot could only manage second in the Ladbrokes St Leger, Gosden is now firmly in pole position with only a month or so left to go.
So although the big race went against us Elusive Kate's narrow defeat and Maureen's below par run meant it was not the disastrous weekend it could have been in Selkirk. The day was exhausting, but it highlights the problems that the day to day running of a betting shop brings. All of the staff who are based in Selkirk have children and quite rightly we all put our family first. That is not to say we are not committed to our work also and we are a close-knit team. It was unfortunate that Allan had plans over the weekend and I know if it were possible for him to have helped out he would have. Although he has a real love of golf I'm sure he wasn't just watching the Ryder Cup all weekend, and Eleanor could have managed in for a couple of hours after 4pm but I felt it unfair to ask her to do so. As I've mentioned previously her son Daniel has bravely battled leukaemia and is well on the road to recovery. Eleanor and Daniel were part of a fundraising drive at the local High School for the Marie Curie Cancer research fund and afterwards her daughter Siobhan, who has only just started High School, had a fashion show. Recently married Colin also had commitments elsewhere and could not make it, but if you knew just how many hours this guy put in (he works two jobs and does some decorating for friends in his spare time!) you could understand this.
There will be shop staff in small teams all over the country who deal with this on a regular basis and I have nothing but admiration for how well people manage when circumstances conspire against them having been on the receiving end this weekend. I personally believe that happy staff are productive staff and time spent with nearest and dearest makes for a better working environment, so it's superb that all the guys, myself included, have had a great weekend, albeit in differing ways!
The final act of the weekend brings the happiest story with it. People use all different strategies to pick their horses. Some will stick strictly to form lines, some will prefer the breeding, the draw may come into it. Then there are those who follow jockeys, trainers etc and those who will stick to a name. Joe Sparkes likes numbers. He likes numbers and patterns and, as strange as that may sound to the purists, that is how he and many others have their fun.
He enjoys what he does, small stakes here and there and I quite enjoy chatting to him, and about his systems. With Sunday drawing to a close and not really feeling that I had much of a chance to see how he had been recently with such a busy weekend I asked what system he was using then. He said that he was waiting for a "lucky spell", that period of a day where things just went your way. He then went and put some loose change in the FOBTs, and returned to the counter with a ticket and some profit. He said his numbers, 11 and 10, had just came out and he was going to do them in the next races if there were enough runners. He likes numbers that are together but there was no number nine in the 5:20pm at the Curragh he would do Fromajacktoaking, his late papa's name being Jack. After speaking about "lucky spells" no less than half an hour before, in a 15 minute spell from the 5:05pm at Clonmel (14/1 shot Island Peak), Distant Sun at 12s at Musselburgh and finally the 13/8F in the 5:20pm Joe managed to turn £2.10 from a 30p patent into over £240!
Back home on Sunday I am enjoying the Ryder Cup aftermath on Sky and later this week will record the punters' reaction in my next blog, along with all the gossip from this year's BOS Trade Fair at Wolverhampton on Thursday.