Wyattosaurus enjoys his final roar

Even as Lord Wyatt of Weeford unveiled the 21st and final annual report of his long tenure as the chairman of the Tote yesterday, along the road in South Kensington, the curator of the Natural History Museum was making space for an important new exhibit. Move over tyrannosaurus, it is time to welcome the Wyattosaurus - the last of the great dinosaurs.

The noble Lord did not go quietly, but then no-one expected him to. Having spent two decades telling everyone what a marvellous job he was doing for what was, by the time of his retirement, a six-figure salary, he was hardly likely to miss out on his final opportunity. Indeed, whenever a question was directed towards his successor, Peter Jones, Lord Wyatt generally assumed it had in fact been intended for him, and proceeded to answer. There could be no better illustration of the way in which the state-owned betting organisation has been run under Lord Wyatt, nor of the change of direction which many in racing now hope it will take.

Wyatt and retiring have never before been words which sat easily together, and certainly, no-one could accuse him of having been anything but a hands- on chairman. Sometimes for better but at least as often for worse, the Tote has been forced to follow a path dictated by its chairman's unshakeable belief in his ability as a navigator. It often seemed the only opinions which mattered to him were his own, and those of whoever was Home Secretary when his contract came up for renewal, a process which continued on the nod even when he was well beyond the age at which a civil servant would have been forced to retire.

"The Tote is big business. It wasn't when I was appointed chairman by the Labour Government on 1 May 1976," was the typically self-effacing introduction to the chairman's final annual statement. "It was a shambles on the edge of bankruptcy. Last year we made record profits."

Well, up to a point. Yesterday's accounts do show a record profit, before the Tote's contribution to racing, of pounds 12.8m, a rise of 21 per cent on the previous year. The problem, though, is that it is 21 per cent of what is, given the Tote's monopoly on a form of betting which guarantees they cannot lose, not very much. The return to racing last year was pounds 8.7m, another record, but many believe it could and should be a great deal more.

As a result, there is a great deal of hope pinned to Peter Jones as he prepares to take over at Tote House on 1 August, and in terms of personality at least, the contrast with his predecessor could hardly be more stark. Softly-spoken, thoughtful, a man who chooses his words with care, his natural style seems to be to manage through consultation rather than dictat, and thus much more in keeping with the current mood.

Still, the honeymoon will not last long. Jones will need to deliver, not least on the Lottery-style Superbet, long-promised but yet to even reach the drawing board. "The ideal time to start it would be in 1998," Jones said, "but it depends on how quickly we can develop the idea and software." Whether the working concept is the four-race Fourtuner which Lord Wyatt revealed to the apparent surprise of his managers earlier this year remains to be seen.

Jones may have had little chance to air his views yesterday, but it was still possible to sense that the Tote, which perhaps represents racing's best hope for a secure financial future, is about to enter a important new phase of development. Wave goodbye to the Wyattosaurus.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?