Racing: Front-line troops gain recognition

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The Independent Online
IMAGINE going into a betting shop to back a horse that is the subject of a gamble and, instead of being treated with suspicion and contempt, being offered a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat by the manageress. It is the sort of outrageously considerate behaviour that yesterday earned Jan Vince the title of Betting Shop Manager of the Year, writes John Cobb.

Her enthusiasm did not end there and, when the 'job' horse was running she 'came out and cheered it on and then arranged for a cab to take my friend and I home', reported the punter whose letter nominated Vince for the award.

The title is a coveted one and Vince, who works for the A R Dennis chain in east London, did not win it simply by dispensing tea and confectionary. After being nominated, her shop was visited incognito by a judge who tested her knowledge and patience. There was a further panel to impress before taking the Racing Post-sponsored award from seven other regional finalists.

Tristram Ricketts, chief executive of the British Horseracing Board, who presented the awards, described the contestants as 'the front-line troops of the industry'. They were apt words. Ronnie Falconer, who won an award for being the best manager of an independent shop, was nominated for 'sorting out the rougher element' in his Betsport shop in Aberdeen, while Claire Barr, who works for Eastwoods in Co Antrim, was praised for her sensitivity in operating in a mixed community: Protestants and Catholics sharing a faith in the four-legged.