Q&A with Lawrence Taylor – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

I contacted this year’s Racing Post Naps table winner Lawrence Taylor about taking part in a #BettingPeople interview.

He decided that a video interview wasn’t for him but graciously agreed to a written quizzing. Without further ado, here’s me, Simon Nott, asking and Lawrence Taylor answering…

💬 Simon Nott (SN): Congratulations on winning the Racing Post NAPS competition. Did you have a strategy for it?

🗣️ Lawrence Taylor (LT): My strategy is always the same – I look for value odds. The Naps competition is six months long, which makes it very difficult to win if you’re not putting up value picks most of the time.

💬 SN: What’s your punting background?

🗣️ LT: I got interested in racing early – first through greyhound racing at Monmore Green and Willenhall in my teens but was also quickly drawn into the world of horse racing too. When I saw Grundy beat Bustino in the King George in ’75, that had a real impact on me.

💬 SN: Did you have a punting mentor?

🗣️ LT: There were racing journalists and backers I respected. Nick Mordin had an impact on me, with his systems column, and when he wrote ‘Betting For A Living’. During the early days of the internet, we used to swap emails about betting and speed figure analysis, and he was generous with his time.

💬 SN: You produce speed ratings for the At The Races website, how long have you been concentrating on speed?

🗣️ LT: Right from the early days I was drawn to speed ratings. Dave Stewart (Computer Kid) for The Sun (pictured below), was one of the first I followed. And Dave Edwards of the Sporting Life. Plus, Split Second in the weekly Handicap Book. Great days. Free and easy, and soaking up all the racing info I could.

💬 SN: Knowing which horse is the fastest would seem the logical angle when looking for winners, but not everyone agrees, why do you believe it is?

🗣️ LT: I think it was Phil Bull (Timeform) who said that a high speed rating tells you how good a horse is, but a low speed rating doesn’t necessarily tell you how bad a horse is. The pace of a race has to come into the equation somewhere.

💬 SN: Do you think it’s possible to win betting using speed ratings alone?

🗣️ LT: I don’t know, because I’ve never tried it. I’ve always taken other factors into consideration, such as the going and likely pace of a race. Speed ratings are a powerful tool, but races are won and lost for many reasons.

💬 SN: What other aspects would you look at to back up a good speed figure?

🗣️ LT: It’s always good to see a speed rating being franked by horses who finished around the target horse, either in the recent past or going forward. Ground is very important, it would be foolish to think that a number earned on fast ground at Goodwood, would be easily transferable to soft ground at Ascot. Trip and pace are other major considerations, and this is where pedigrees can play their part. In the early 2000s I wrote a couple of ‘Formsires’ books for Raceform, which focussed on the predictive powers of pedigree handicapping.

💬 Do you trust official times or do you time your own races?

🗣️ LT: There are not enough hours in the day for me to time every race, and I’m not sure they would be very accurate if I tried to do so. I use official times. Granted, some might not be all that accurate, but on the whole I think the people in charge try their best to get it right.

💬 SN: Would you take draw bias / golden highways into account when you are forming your figures? Just thinking of questions for a time expert can lead you into a spiral. How forensic does it pay to be, all the variables that can affect the outcome of a horse race could have a figure put to them, slowly away, making up ground, being checked in running, not get a lead etc etc. How do you stop ending up down a rabbit hole looking at a race?

🗣️ LT: It would be a nightmare! Too subjective. I think Nick Mordin gave it a go once, but quickly abandoned the project because it became too unwieldy. And I’ve lost count of how many times race experts have tried to predict the golden highway of a track, only for the next race to prove them entirely wrong! However, on occasions, it can be obvious that there is a bias towards a particular part of the track, and it should be noted (although ground conditions can play a big part in shifting this bias).

💬 SN: What’s your opinion on sectionals?

🗣️ LT: The pace of a race is one of the most important reasons why a race unfolds the way it does, and sectionals are a very useful tool for showing this in data form. However, not all horses are alike, and until they at least try to incorporate pedigree data into the mix, then I feel it will always have an Achillies heal. But there’s a problem. Pedigrees can be hard to fathom, which can make its incorporation unstable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for a greater understanding of the relationship between sectionals (pace) and pedigrees.

💬 SN: There are a lot of speed figures out there all based on what should be the same basic figures, how do you tweak yours and how many times have you changed the way you do things in your career?

🗣️ LT: Great question. I have always said that there isn’t enough data from each meeting to 100 percent guarantee the accuracy of speed ratings. This is where experience of working with the numbers, and an understanding of the game, comes into play. The compilation of speed ratings is half science and half art. And it’s time consuming. Far better for players to use a solid set of ratings already in existence and focus on the analysing of other factors such as pace, trip, ground, etc. This is where they can make the greatest difference in their selection method and find their own particular winning edge.

💬 SN: Do you just specialise on flat racing or do speed figures work as well with jumps with so much more to take into account?

🗣️ LT: I cover both Flat and jumps racing in the UK and Ireland, and find that the Flat numbers work out best. Though I have no data to back this statement up! Speed, pace and pedigrees are my specialised areas of study, so the Flat is a more natural fit for me.

💬 SN: How important is your own personal punting?

🗣️ LT: I’ve had my betting accounts restricted more than once. Sometimes I’ll ask a friend to put a bet on for me, but I’m not a big bettor, I’m not staking hundreds on each race. But I couldn’t NOT bet, as it adds a bit of spice to proceedings.

💬 SN: What sort of level do you bet at?

🗣️ LT: It’s usually between £20 and £50, or maybe £100, just enough to make it worthwhile if I’m proved right. I don’t bet every day, just when I know I’m getting value odds.

💬 SN: Are you a winning punter?

🗣️ LT: Yes, and over the years I’ve become more selective, and this makes it even harder for me to lose against the bookies. I also like a punt at the greyhounds (Monmore) and I have a decent strike-rate there too. I stick to pool betting, as there is always value to be found in markets mostly funded by casual players. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have losing runs, which is why I always advise players to bet within their means and keep stakes modest if winners are hard to come by.

💬 SN: Can you tell us how you have become more selective?

🗣️ LT: I have become more selective over the years, mostly through necessity, as value prices have become harder to come by. Also, as a national tipster who highlights value, the odds on my picks often get cut pretty drastically, which is why I advise followers of the ATR Speed Page to tune in to my column the night before racing.

💬 SN: It’s interesting you also back dogs, can you elaborate on your strategy with them?

🗣️ LT: Winning at the greyhounds is a lot like winning at horse racing, in that I study the times, form and shape of the race, make my picks, and then check the pools to see if there is any value to be had. I rarely look at the betting before I make my picks, as this can make you look at the whole race differently, and often in a negative way.

💬 SN: Do you bet into pools for the dogs and horses?

🗣️ LT: The bigger the price of a horse (or dog) the better it is to bet with the tote pools, as the casual players are likely to be more swayed by market sentiment than the smaller group of more educated players. If a horse is a value price with a firm I don’t have an account with, I’ll ask a friend with that account to put a bet on for me. It’s often not big stakes, it’s just that I want to know I got the best value possible.

💬 SN: Do you specialise?

🗣️ LT: I bet mainly on the Flat and all-weather. I do bet the jumps occasionally, but there is nothing worse than a faller when they are travelling well! Still, as long as they get up and all is well I don’t dwell on it.

💬 SN: What are the best races when it comes to speed figures and finding winners?

🗣️ LT: The best races are those in which I can find value.

💬 SN: What would your advice be to anyone that’s interested in following in your footsteps and concentrating on speed figures for their punting?

🗣️ LT: I’d say don’t create your own, as it’s a big commitment of time and effort. Instead, use an established set of figures, pick either the Flat, jumps or all-weather, and do a deep dive into the available data. Get to understand that racing isn’t just about the numbers.

Many thanks to Lawrence Taylor…


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring




Author: Eugene Morris