‘This is something that can never be taken away from me’
Andrew Pennington talks to 2017 winner Ron Hearn
Ron Hearn, the reigning Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year, celebrated a landmark moment in his life on Saturday – the 40th anniversary of his first Grand National in the industry.
The 57-year-old JenningsBet manager from Charlton in south-east London was in his shop at the weekend to witness the victory of Tiger Roll and last week he looked back to when it all began.
“I started work in July 1977, so my first National in a shop was when Lucius and Bob Davies won the race the following spring. The most memorable one in my lifetime, though, was Red Rum beating Crisp to win his first National in 1973,” he said.
Hearn also reflected on his 40 years in bookmaking, saying: “Everything has changed. You have to be a technician as well as a betting shop manager these days – it’s so different now. My old manager at William Hill would not understand it.
“We are machine-based here to an extent. At 9.30 this morning all of the customers in the shop were on the machines. Thankfully, though, we still have plenty of horseracing punters who are happy to talk about the previous day’s action and discuss their fancies for the day.”
During his 22 years in Charlton Hearn believes he has seen the majority of the football clubs in England at The Valley, which is a stone’s throw from his shop, and winning the competition has certainly raised his profile.
“When Portsmouth played Charlton in December one fan came in, congratulated me on winning the competition and walked out of the shop. He didn’t even have a bet. It was only a few weeks after the final. It’s been amazing,” he said.
Hearn enjoyed each stage of the competition last year, but particularly liked the experience at Doncaster, where he met and spoke to managers from different companies and different areas of the country.
In one of the earlier rounds he was asked to write about changes he had witnessed in the industry. “I was only given 300 words – I could have written 300 pages on everything I’ve seen,” he joked.
Since winning the prize last November Hearn has spent an afternoon at Ascot in the SIS box with his shop team, watched the Racing Post Juvenile at Sheffield, attended the ICE gaming exhibition and enjoyed Racing Post hospitality at the Cheltenham Festival.
“Cheltenham was fantastic as I got to meet George Baker, who was a favourite jockey of mine. He took time to talk to my wife Julie and me, which we really appreciated,” Hearn said.
“In the summer we go to Singapore, which is something we’re both looking forward to.”
Finally, he urged all independent managers to enter the competition: “You’ll get the chance to do things you’ll never do again. It’s something that can never be taken away from me and being the first JenningsBet winner is something I’m really proud of.”
How the competition works
It is up to the major companies to determine their qualifiers. There are eight regional competitions: Ireland, Scotland, north-east, north-west and Isle of Man, Midlands and Wales, south-west and Channel Islands, Anglia and south-east, and Greater London.
In the seven British regions, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill will be asked to put forward two nominations for each area, with one place in each earmarked for Paddy Power.
In Ireland, there are two places reserved for BoyleSports, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power, with one place for William Hill.
For all independent managers, they can enter by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1.
Each manager will then receive a written question paper, and six per region will be chosen to go through to the next round by the judging panel, which comprises Brough Scott (chairman), Helen Scott and Nigel Boardman of SIS, BHA chief executive Nick Rust, Ibas managing director Richard Hayler, former Channel 4 Racing presenter Tanya Stevenson, Jim Cremin and me.
The 48 managers through to this stage will each be subjected to a mystery shopper visit after which the panel will select the final 24 (three per region).
Those 24 managers will then spend a day at the races at Doncaster at the end of October, where they will meet the judges for the first time. Eight regional champions will be chosen from this day.
Each regional champion, along with a key member of their shop staff, will then attend the final selection at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in London, which involves a question-and-answer session with the judges the day before the final.
The final awards lunch takes place at the Carlton Tower Hotel on November 19. The winner will receive a VIP trip to one of Singapore’s major meetings next year courtesy of the Singapore Turf Club and will also be invited to several key racing and betting occasions during their year as champion.
KEY DATES FOR THIS YEAR’S COMPETITION
Closing date for all nominations June 1
Question papers sent to all finalists June 4
Closing date for completed question papers July 1
Final 48 announced for mystery shopper visits August 7
Final 24 announced October 2
Final 24 attend judging at Doncaster October 25
Regional champions announced November 1
Final judging November 18
Awards lunch November 19
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