I’ve often been asked what my best bet has been, going back over decades of profitable punting.
There are plenty of contenders, obviously.
Recent stand out favourite winning bets include Rule the World winning the 2016 Grand National at odds of 50/1. I tipped that winner to members of my selection service in plenty of time for them to get on at that price. I screamed and screamed as Davy Mullins produced Rule the World from fourth place to land the most watched race in the world.
Quickly, members got in touch with me to thank me for the winning tip. They were talking about paying off car loans (they must have bet with bigger stakes than me!) and one member said the winning tip had paid the bill for his daughter’s wedding dress. Great news!
In 2012 one member of VG Tips sent me a postcard from Florida. It’s where he had taken the family for a holiday courtesy of me tipping some great priced winners at the Cheltenham Festival that year. Une Artiste at 40/1 and Brindisi Breeze at 12/1 were among the seven winners tipped that year, and there were six other profitable each way punts that got placed.
So Une Artiste and Rule the World have been favourite double figure priced winners that will live long and fondly in my memory.
But my two most inspired bets paid out in within three days of each other in the summer of 1994. Happy Days!
Racing was not involved. With age and the passage of time I cannot remember exactly how much I won on each bet, or the individual odds I took. But I do know that within three days I had made thousand of pounds via only two bets. Incredible!
On June 18th, in New York, the Republic of Ireland managed by a man whose tactics I knew well, Jack Charlton, beat Italy 1-0 thanks to an 11th minute goal by Ray Houghton (pictured above). For years I watched my team, Sheffield Wednesday, win games by the solitary goal when Jack managed the Owls in the dark days of the 1970’s.
Here was a manager whose number one priority was to build a solid defence, not concede, get a 0-0 draw or win games by a solitary goal if possible. Pitting his wits against an Italian side famed for being equally defensive and conservative, but with some seriously dangerous players in their side.
I backed the Republic of Ireland to beat Italy 1-0. A correct score bet at big odds. When Houghton scored in the 11th minute, I presumed my bet would be lost. Surely Italy would score at least once. Only Jack Charlton and his assistant Maurice Setters were more nervous than me – for 80 odd minutes. Injury time was painful. But Ireland held on and I celebrated in style.
Surely, come June 21st, my second speculative bet at big odds would not pay off. I couldn’t be that lucky, could I?
But I was. You cannot simply say I was lucky, however. I had undertaken months of research before winning via what was probably THE best bet I have ever placed.
It came through a sport I have long followed. Tennis. I was fortunate to be paid to attend Wimbledon in the great days of McEnroe, Connors, Nastase and company. Decades later, I watched every tennis tournament on TV. I’d stay up at daft hours to watch matches played all over the world.
On June 21st, 3 days after the shock win by Ireland, I collected on my best ever Wimbledon bet.
As Wimbledon 1994 approached I was aware through watching so much tennis that Steffi Graf was not playing at her best. She seemed to be well off her game. Her opponent in the first round of Wimbledon, Lori McNeil, was ranked only 22 in the world. But I thought she had the game to beat Graf. The odds for her to do so were big (you got big odds on such events in those days). I cannot recall what price I took.
It was the only match Graf lost at Wimbledon between 1991 and 1997. She reacted in her usual phlegmatic manner, saying: “She was better than me. I’m not going to kill myself though.”
3 days of betting on sport that paid for my own holiday and allowed me to fund the initial undercover filming of a ‘Dispatches’ TV documentary which itself, once produced by me and aired by Channel 4, paid me handsomely.
1994 was a very good year for this profitable punter and, four years later, I set about beating the bookie at the end of each and every year. Here I am, 19 years later, still doing precisely that.
In recent months I have asked the likes of Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald, assistant racehorse trainer Mick Channon junior and (below) Graham Sharpe from bookmaker William Hill, about their own best bet.
Historically, I ask them, what is the bet they most fondly remember.
And I ask you reading this. What was yours?