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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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 Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer / Helpdesk Engineer

£16500 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A full-service agency based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £21,000

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to company expansion a fant...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy