has one of radio's most enduring and well-known voices.He
is a man who, over the decades, has been central to the punters' day, writes Patrick Bartley.
The man best qualified to talk about the evolution of racing radio over the past half century did not like the sport when he
began broadcasting and is still not particularly interested in it.
Over the past 50 years, John Vertigan
has seen endless reels of tape replaced by state-of-the-art computers, the number of race meetings increase ten-fold while the number of different bets available to punters has exploded.
But what has been a constant in that time is Vertigan
, one of the pioneers of the medium and the man with the silky, unmistakable voice, whose words at the start of every Saturday raceday have been familiar with punters for decades.
At 66, Vertigan
is the authority of racing radio, the patriarch of breathing life into a day at the races.After 50 years behind the microphone, he has relished every innovative step the medium has made since he started his career at 16 with 3GL Geelong, through to his present position at Sport 927.
moved into racing radio because he
wanted to learn about the medium, not because he
had a passion for the sport.
"The then studio manager, as they called them in those days, at 3UZ was also an announcer: Bob Cornish.He
was doing the racing on a Saturday afternoon and suggested I be his
off-sider and help him out, so I slid into the chair opposite and learned that way.Then I took it on solo in late 1969 for the next 10 years," he
"I have never been interested in racing.But to me, it is probably the most exciting avenue to broadcast because of its immediacy and the fact that a certain amount of accuracy is required."
You may think that following the game so closely, Vertigan
would be well placed to land a few good bets.But he
doesn't even have a betting account.
knew that working with Bryant in those times was the cutting edge of radio.
teeth in the heady days of radio, when disc jockeys were finding a niche and the advent of TV meant that radio had to reinvent itself."A lot of radio people went into television as the whole programming concept changed.You see, in the old days, evenings were peak times for radio.Now the peak time is breakfast.All these adventure programs that were running at night were no longer valid because television was showing the same things with pictures," he
reflects that since the 1950s the attrition rate of AM radio stations has been high."Almost every radio station I've ever worked for has changed its call sign or they have either gone FM or disappeared off the face of the earth," he
said.Vertigan, who works on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons for Sport 927, said the main reason radio survived was a small invention in the early '60s.
is staggered by the changes to racing broadcasts since the '60s."It entailed a lot more information than what we're giving now.Starters and riders were not published in the press in those days.So for every darn race we had to list: No. 1, such and such, ridden by so and so, and give all the riders for the day.The TAB had just been introduced when I joined UZ
and gee, I think in the beginning it wasn't even same-day payout and you weren't encouraged to stand around a TAB agency."
still thinks back to the days of early racing radio with deep fondness.
is a stickler for preparation; even after decades in the job he
insists on arriving in the studio half an hour before his
studio looks more like a mess of wires, microphones and log books but it all makes sense to him."It's all in the preparation.It's all in working one step ahead.If I put a Melbourne race on and there's a Sydney race coming on in five minutes, I'm already listening to the Sydney race.
"And once that Sydney race is on I'm listening to the next venue which might be Brisbane or country racing or whatever and you keep working one race ahead all the time, and that way, we can keep the impetus going."Vertigan
has helped those striving to get a foothold in radio with advice and tips.
For so long now, Vertigan
has been the voice that brings the heartbreak of a photo-finish going the wrong way or the joy of a protest going the right way.And he
will continue to be that voice for a few years to come.
, above, at home in the studio at Sport 927