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Exclusive: Vernon Grant talks racing and football

Profitable punter Vernon Grant talks to In The Stand Sport

We love to discuss sport with anyone that wishes to participate and we recently had the privilege of sitting down and talking to TV producer, football fan and profitable punter – Vernon Grant about racing and football. A knowledgeable and smart punter himself, Vernon has had the pleasure of interviewing some of the biggest names in sport, Sir Anthony McCoy being one of them.

We sat down with Vernon to find out to find out a bit more about his thought process and antics in the world of sport.

Q.1 You have got a great passion for horse racing, how did that start?

I have my late father to thank for that. He came from an equine background in Ireland.

When he wasn’t going to watch his beloved Brentford play football we sat down together to watch racing on BBC ‘Grandstand.’ He pointed out who the best jockeys were (Lester Piggott being his favourite) and he could spot a likely winner in the paddock. In August, when he had his two-week annual holiday, he’d take his four boys to sit on the hill that overlooks Goodwood racecourse. Through binoculars, we’d watch the racing below. For free!


Q.2 I’ve spent time with you at the race track, you seem to instil a level of confidence in the punter. Does it give you satisfaction in the knowledge that your guidance can sometimes help to persuade the punter not to make a bet, especially if the racing conditions have changed?


Yes. Knowing when not to bet is every bit as important as knowing when to. The most common mistake people make, online or on course, is that they bet too often. If you are ahead of the bookie, quit. If you are losing to the bookie, quit.

Ground conditions can change very quickly on the day of racing and the weather can play havoc with your betting. Some horses love to race on softer ground, others prefer firmer going. Knowing which is which is important.


Q3. As someone passionate about making TV what are your thoughts on ITV’s coverage of horse racing?


Overall I have been disappointed with the ITV coverage. The shots of the action itself are not technically as good compared to when Channel 4 transmitted the sport.

The presentation team is too large and has yet to gel in a way that makes me stay with them. Oli Bell and Francesca Cumani are professional, know their stuff and are engaging personalities. But proven quality presenters such as Rishi Persad and Alice Plunkett have been used too sparingly on ITV.

The chief error is by the broadcaster itself. They are transmitting the famous feature meetings on the main ITV Channel, but have relegated so many of the meetings to ITV4 – the home for repeats of old ITV shows. Their Saturday morning programme called ‘The Opening Show’ has fewer people watching than Rotherham United!

ITV bosses would argue that an old film attracts more viewers on ITV than the less famous race meetings – and they’d be right.


Q4. Who has been your inspiration within the Sport of Kings?


Racehorses would be Brigadier Gerard, Nijinsky, Denman and Kauto Star. Jockeys would be the likes of Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes. Trainers would include Paul Nicholls, John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute.


Q5. What can be done, if anything at all to improve the standard of horse racing in Britain and Ireland?


Ireland is, comparatively speaking, doing well. It is a sport watched by true racing people who, first and foremost, go to watch the racing. Not to get pissed. Race meetings there attract more horses and are more competitive. It’s true that most of the best racehorses are owned by a handful of wealthy people, but you see more outsiders win races in Ireland.


As for the UK, there is plainly too much racing. Far too many meetings are staged all year-long. The majority of them are poor, low-grade race meetings. They exist only for the benefit of the bookies and the racecourses themselves.

And there are way too many small field races. These days you see more races composed of five horses or fewer. There has been a reduction in the number of thoroughbred racehorses being bred. More trainers are giving up the game as the costs are so high and the rewards too small. Prize money, or rather the lack of it, is one contributory factor. If you are a trainer located at one end of the UK, why send a horse hundreds of miles when the potential winnings do not cover the costs of training and transporting that horse.


I am far from alone in advocating less racing, not more. Quality, not quantity would improve the image and enjoyment of racing. But it will never happen. The racing authorities are puppets. The big online bookmakers, the puppet masters. They pull the strings.


Q6. You’re very honest with your punters, and are happy to inform them that a race is not worth the effort. Do you ever get criticised for your decisions not to bet on a race?


That’s rare these days. Some members of my selection service have been with me for years and they know my approach.

In the early days I was sometimes asked why I was not offering a tip in a particular race.

The reasons are always the same. There is nothing I fancy and I will not tip or bet in a race for the sake of it. Or there is a very likely winner, but the odds are so short as to make a bet pointless. There is an old racing adage about constantly backing odds on shots being the fast route to the poor house. That saying is as true today as it ever has been.


Q7. Your knowledge of the sport is very comprehensive. Tell us about the 50/1 Grand National winner. There are many tipsters out there that didn’t give the horse a chance.


In 2016 I tipped Rule The World as a 50/1 each way bet to members of VG Tips. I didn’t expect him to win the race. After all, he’d never raced over the big fences at Aintree. But he was what I label a ‘percentage call’ bet. In thirteen previous outings he’d finished in the first six in all but one of those races, and some bookies were returning each way bets about the first six horses past the post.

I offered two each way tips in that race of 40 runners. Ironically, late on, Rule the World overtook my other tip to subscribers. That was The Last Samuri at 10/1. He was placed also, so members who backed both tips each way were very happy with their returns.


A year later, last April, I warned members that there was no chance of my picking such a big priced winner of the Grand National for a second time. How wrong was I? My 40/1 ante-post tip for the race, sent to existing members as early as January, was called One For Arthur. He duly won the 2017 running of the race.


Q8. We shared the disappointment of watching Sheffield Wednesday losing out to Hull City at Wembley in the 2015/16 playoffs. What are your thoughts on Wednesday’s promotion chances ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.


Oh bloody hell! Not that one again.

I do believe the players freezing at Wembley against Hull was costly.

Before the play offs took place the season just gone, I maintained that if the Owls got past Huddersfield, they would beat whoever they faced at Wembley. I still believe that would have been the case. But the Wednesday tactics at Huddersfield were too conservative and they paid the price for that come the second leg at Hillsborough.

This coming season will be the last chance for manager Carlos Carvalhal. I am glad he has kept his job, but if the team does not secure promotion this time around, he’ll be gone.

Do I think the Owls will go up next May? No, I do not. But it is one bet I will be more than delighted to call wrong.


Q9. You’ve got lots of interesting stories about various sportsman. Who was the most interesting to work with?


That’s a tough one. I have been fortunate to produce or interview countless sports stars, the majority from the world of football. Working in TV with players I had decades earlier, as a boy, idolised from the terraces has been something I never imagined would happen. Notably sharing an office with the likes of George Best and Rodney Marsh when I worked at Sky Sports was a tad surreal. These are men whose photographs I cut out of football magazines and stuck to my bedroom wall. Then, decades later, I find myself having a kick around with them in the car park.

Rodney was responsible for one of the best lines I heard about Sheffield Wednesday. I was producing Sky Sports News the day Paolo Di Canio pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground. The Owls dressing room was an unsettled one at that time. Live on air, Rodney said to Jeff Stelling: “You know what Sheffield Wednesday remind me of, Geoff? They remind me of a man with diarrhoea who can’t drop his trousers in time.”


One interview I really enjoyed back in the 90’s was with the former Liverpool player Craig Johnston. Born in South Africa, he spoke to me about how the Liverpool players never really accepted him as one of their own, despite the medals they won together. And, of course, he was very interesting when talking about how he developed the famous football boot, the Predator. Something that made him much more money than the game itself ever did.


To sit down and interview at length the likes of AP McCoy, Richard Hughes and Paul Nicholls has been a privilege. All three such dedicated and determined individuals.


Q10. Finally, what advice would you give to anyone heading to the races?


Decide what you are going for. Are you going to watch the racing and to bet on course with bookies?

If so, be sure never to chase your losses. If you’ve lost money in the first two or three races, stop betting. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll win it all back in the next race.

If you are winning, bet until you first lose. Then quit.


But if you are going to the races mainly as a social thing, and to drink copious amounts of overpriced flat beer, don’t be betting after your first pint. Drinking and betting don’t mix.


Thank you to Vernon for taking time out of his schedule. Check out his website  where you can subscribe to Vernon’s tips– follow him on twitter @betonsportstips for racing and @VGTips1 regarding football bets.


Check out his sports interviews and video dairies via his YouTube channel

Featured image of the Ebor Festival 2016 property of In The Stand Sport

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