A BOOKMAKER who could give horse-racing pundit John McCririck a run for his money has scooped a top betting award.
Jon Ridley, of family-run bookies’ firm Johnny Ridley, has proved he is the ‘mane’ attraction after being named On-Course Betting Operator of the Year.
The 68-year-old, who has 50 years experience, dedicated the award to his brother, Jim, 57, who worked alongside him for 30 years before being diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare cancer of the white blood cells, five years ago.
East Durham businessman Jon said: “To win the award was an honour not only for myself but for my team.
“I dedicated the award to my brother.
“We were originally told he probably wouldn’t live for more than five years three years ago.
“But he recently had a stem cell transplant and we are hoping that will give him more years.
“I’m the face of Johnny Ridley, but he was working behind me in the background. We were a team.”
Jon was honoured for his work taking bets as an on-course bookmaker at his five pitches at Sedgefield, Redcar, Newcastle, York, Catterick and his National Hunt pitch at Doncaster.
He said he used to use the Tic-Tac method of communication, which was a form of sign language used between bookmakers and their runners and still seen on TV being used by Channel 4 pundit John McCririck, but sadly the artform has died out with the onslaught of technology.
“I miss it, it was part of the colour of going racing”, said Jon.
He was whittled down to three finalists for the national award, which is run by betting industry magazine BetView and recognises good customer service and fairness for punters.
He was presented with the accolade by BBC presenter Claire Balding and Rugby Union legend Will Greenwood at a glitzy bash at London’s Grosvenor Hotel which was attended by 700 people.
The awards have been running for three years and he was runner-up in the previous years.
Jon also owns betting shops in Shotton Colliery, Wheatley Hill, Thornley, Trimdon Village and Wingate and employs 27 people.
This side of the business is called ‘off-course’ betting.
But Jon said this form of betting did not become legal until 1961, when his father, also called Johnny Ridley, set up the family’s first betting shop in Shotton.
Prior to this, during the Second World War, as on-course betting was legal, Jon senior got round red tape by taking bets at the local dog tracks.
In 1986, the company was the first firm in the country to sponsor a fence at a racecourse, having signed up for a deal at Sedgefield.
Jon’s son Jonathan, 40, helps out at the trackside, and his 25-year-old student daughter Jane has also been known to chip in.
Shotton man Jon, who is married to Jane and also dad to Rachael, 37, and David, 31, is also director of the Northern Bookmakers Protection Association (NBPA).