Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Ten weeks secondment ahead for me on new tills
Success and failure. It is a thin line that separates them and, from the bookmakers’ perspective, that proved a neck, used by rank outsider Solemia to stretch ahead of Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre to win the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. That result meant Europe's richest turf race would be an overwhelming victory for the bookies who had already shed few tears when pre-race fancies Nathaniel, Snow Fairy and Danedream all dashed ante-post punters hopes by failing to make it to the starting stalls.
To some shrewdies there were clues to be had, Solemia having previously won on soft going, fillies’ recent record being exceptional and the fact that jockey Olivier Peslier already had three Arc victories to his name, albeit the most recent of the hat-trick was back in 1998.
Not one person backed the winner in Scotbet in Selkirk and I'd be amazed if that wasn't the case almost everywhere.
There had been lots of talk about the Dettori factor on Camelot, about John Gosden supplementing Great Heavens and George S had been battering on all week about how big the price was for Sea Moon.
In the end Great Heavens was Britain's best finisher, managing sixth but it was a sad end to a campaign that had promised so much for Aidan O'Brien's Camelot.
The last time I wrote was Thursday afternoon from the BOS Trade Fair at Wolverhampton and it was a smashing day. Thanks to the Racing Post it was a smashing evening as well as I joined up with some of the guys from Stan James and Sportsbook-uk.com along with the many others who had booked in for an evening meal and racing and predictably all the racing chat was about Sunday's feature race. With all the defections many believed that Camelot's defeat in the Ladbrokes St. Leger would be seen merely as a blip on an otherwise spotless copybook had he went on to show the world what a great horse he was in France, the flipside being that if he could not win an under strength Arc then serious questions would have to be asked about his pedigree.
Almost to a man all the people I had spoken to on Thursday night were impressed enough with Orfevre's showing in the trials to think that this horse was the real deal and would be Camelot's biggest danger.
I'm inclined to agree with Frankie Dettori's assessment that a very long season caught up on a wonderful horse who on the day, with a cut hind leg and lost shoe, travelled well enough but never found much and finished down in seventh. It's a real shame that a horse that, along with Frankel, has provided so much discussion and hope will probably now be referred to as 'the best of a bad bunch'. It also speaks volumes for Camelot that, afterwards, Aidan O'Brien publicly stated that Camelot was still the best horse he has ever had, high praise indeed.
The race looked there to be had for Orfevre, but the Japanese curse struck again at Longchamp and there were tears from the huge Japanese contingent at the track, as well as punters everywhere, as Christophe Soumillon's mount collided with the barrier and was pushed back into second, having held a three length lead.
Even with that collision Orfevre was closing again. but ran out of real estate much to an entire nation’s disappointment.
I watched the race on At The Races with a very excited Kris and a less so Tracy at home on Sunday, it being the first day of a week off for me. The October week falls now for the Borders schools and as well as that we have been ten pin bowling in Edinburgh as well as playing a few rounds of mini-golf in Scotland's only black lit mini-golf course in Deans, Livingston.
It's been a lot of fun spending time with the family and it promises to be an eventful week, as ever I've had to promise that work must be put on the backburner until the night before I'm due to go back.
I'm one of those people that finds it difficult to escape completely and this week will prove even more difficult as when I go back I will start a ten week secondment that will involve me spending a week each in ten shops training the staff on how to use our new till system.
As much as I will miss the banter and hilarity in Selkirk I must admit to be really looking forward to this new challenge and, in theory, it will also mean I will have most weekends off so should get to see more of Kris, although practicality often scuppers high hopes.
It is exciting though and on Monday when we had finished crazy golf I got my first row from Tracy as I popped into the local Scotbet in Livingston and said hi to the staff.
I was taken aback by their enthusiasm towards the new tills and knowing that the deal is in place to provide a better service to our punters appears to have invigorated our workforce, so already the benefits of moving into the twenty-first century are there to be seen.
Progress and technology is always improving and it is up to us to move and adapt with it. The job now is so different to what it was even when I started and that was not even a decade ago. The betting exchanges now have a major influence on the day to day running of a betting shop, and rightly or wrongly many punters are sceptical as to the role these exchanges perform. The ability to back a horse to lose does not sit well with the conspiracy theorists, especially with integrity under well publicised scrutiny.
A final word then on Selkirk and, on my last day there until almost Christmas, it was great to see John D upholding what is now fast becoming a Saturday tradition and scooping over one thousand pounds from a multiple bet, and this one even had a couple that didn't win in it.
He went out giggling about how a non-runner is not always a bad thing and perhaps I should stop marking them up on the boards through the day.
It might not be on a par with Steve Palmer's sensational tips, advising Brendan Grace at 50/1 as well as runner up Thorbjorn Olesen, also 50s, but it is another victory for our punters, although after the Arc result I'm sure we can afford it!
Well done John, and thanks to all the punters that have made the shop what it is to work in over the last five years. I'll pop my head in from time to time over the next ten weeks (if Tracy lets me!) to make sure I'm not missing out on any gossip.
And to the final 24 in the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year Competition, (announced in Tuesday’s paper) I look forward to meeting you all at Doncaster.
I'm off to enjoy the rest of my holiday week and I wish you all the best of luck too. Thanks for reading.