For today’s post I’m delighted to have an interview with Hugh Taylor the very successful At The Races tipster. Hugh’s record is right up there with the best with 2010 bringing in an amazing return of 324 points.
(Edit-Hugh achived his third consecutive year of profit with attheraces.com in 2011, registering a total of +302.64. With 96 wins from 669 selections Hugh achieved a strike rate of 14.3% and a Return On Investment of 1.28. The average price advised was 12.52/1.)
If anyone isn’t familiar with Hugh’s work he posts up his selections every day (except when he has a well deserved break) anytime between 9 and 11 am. The excellent tipster form site did an interview with Hugh last year when they covered many angles and its well worth a read. For me the most telling comment was the detail about his selection process.
The other thing I would highlight is that I’m not looking for winners; I’m looking for overpriced horses. That means taking the long-term view and aiming for long-term profit rather than short-term gain, and not being daunted by long losing runs; these are inevitable if you are looking for longer-priced horses, and in my opinion it’s an inability to understand and cope with this that is one of the biggest things for punters to overcome if they are to make money out of betting on horses
There is also an interesting Q and A on the ATR website where he covers off the most frequently asked questions
Hugh’s selections will sometimes have the bookmakers running scared and there have been many times when I have seen a horse that was priced up at something like 25 be cut to 15 within seconds of the selections being posted. This always makes me laugh as, in my opinion it shows two things either a) the odds compilers have their prices wrong in the first place or b) they haven’t got the bottle to stick by their guns and take Hugh on! I’ve seen a top bookies report and they have a selection where they detail the performance of tipsters and it’s quite telling that at the top of the list was Hugh’s name. The other excellent thing about the ATR service is that they are very open about results and give a full update at the end of every month and also have detail of every result since he started posting up selections. If you have ever read some of the nonsense that the Racing Post say about their tipsters “Price Wise bang on form” etc when they have suddenly picked a winner after a barren spell then you will know how refreshing that is.
Hugh has this year started tweeting and rather kindly posts a tweet up in the morning giving warning that his selections are likely to be posted up on the ATR site. This at least gives everyone an idea of when the selections are posted up although sometimes it’s still difficult to get the prices although personally I feel that as long as you are organised and perhaps invest a bit of time in some technology to help you can get on.
So without further ado let’s talk to Hugh…
FTBB: Firstly for a tipster that has such a big impact on prices and is so successful how is it that the service is free? With the amount of followers that you have you must surely have thought about monetising the service?
One of the main attractions for me when I was approached to be the at the races UK tipster was that it would be a free service. That’s part of atr’s business model and whilst I don’t get involved in the reasoning behind that, I’m fairly confident that it works for the website and that it will remain free. Providing an expensive premium tipping service isn’t something I’d be comfortable with. I’m fully aware that the prices of my selections disappear very quickly but that’s partly because of the huge number of readers the website has, and if you read the Q & A section on my page you’ll see that the aims of the column are quite broad to reflect the fact that the atr website has such an enormous readership and also the fact that it is a daily column which so often means weakish markets on weekdays.
FTBB: A great addition to the service has been the tweets which as I’ve already mentioned is a great way of helping your followers get the prices – tell me why you decided to do this as it must just be a lot of extra work for you?
It does create a little extra work, more so in the amount of increased communication it involves with the guys who upload – they are very patient with me because I am in constant touch with them about when the column is going to go live, so it’s an extra burden on them too. But we all know how hard it is to get the prices and at least using Twitter gives readers a rough idea of when the column is about to be updated. It also means that punters who aren’t especially interested in what I tip but are worried about missing out on prices of their own selections have the option of following me and backing their own intended selection before mine appears, to safeguard against the possibility that I have gone for the horse they were looking to back.
FTBB: I’ve seen you stating in other interviews that you don’t often bet and you also tweeted- “The main problem is timing, because I almost never back them before they go online- surely you are putting yourself at a massive disadvantage because you know the price will crash?
The only times I can recall backing a horse before I can see it online is for something like Cheltenham or Royal Ascot where my selections are unlikely to impact on the market. I suppose I am putting myself at a disadvantage sometimes but I take the view that I’m paid to write the column and in any case professional pride tends to be far more important than financial reward – if I’ve tipped a big-priced winner I’m delighted regardless of whether I managed to back it or not. There’s also, more so with some firms than others, the issue of getting on that most punters face.
FTBB: I’ve also seen plenty of comments from people about prices leaking out etc . Can you tell us a bit more about the actual process that goes on from picking a possible selection to it appearing on the website?
One of the problems I face is that I’m writing a price-oriented column that involves dynamic markets; prices change very quickly these days, and I find it almost pointless even looking at markets the night before racing as the standout bets are usually cut well before morning. Quite often I start writing up a selection in the morning and the price has gone before I finish writing, so it is also a bit of a rush-job as I frequently have to alter selections on the fly mid-morning; that’s partly why the timing of the column is so inconsistent. Add to that the fact that the person uploading the column then has to take my file and convert it into HTML for the website and you can appreciate that the preparation of the column is not a completely straightforward/quick task.
The guy in charge of uploading at atr usually posts the time that he submits the finished column at the top of the page, but as regular readers will be aware, the column then usually goes down for a few minutes whilst it flushes through, so the column tends to appear around 2-3 minutes, occasionally a bit longer, after the time that it was submitted. If you check on oddschecker.com by clicking on the horse’s name, you can see to the nearest minute when each bookmaker cut the price, and usually it is after the time that the column appeared (though often only marginally so).
As far as prices leaking out, I have no evidence of this, with most of the suggestions that this is occurring seemingly based on the price being gone by the time they have reached the appropriate page on the bookmaker’s website, and we already know that many bookmakers are keen to cut prices as soon as they know what the selection is; I think if an individual was regularly placing bets on my selections before the column were published, there would be a fairly instant knock-on effect across many firms. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some people are using automated programmes in relation to my page, but I’m afraid I lack the technical expertise to expand on that possibility.
FTBB: Away from racing are there any other sports that you are interested in, either from a betting or purely watching perspective?
I was brought up on rugby league and supported Featherstone Rovers as a boy, and indeed I still follow their progress, though largely on TV these days; I was slightly disillusioned about the game when Super League came along (Featherstone were shunted off to the lower leagues as they were considered too small/unfashionable for the new era, despite being a dyed-in-the-wool RL stronghold and having been produced dozens of top players for many years). I also like watching the NFL and was quite successful betting on it for many years, but generally my Sunday night NFL viewing these days tends to take second place to 0-70s at Wolverhampton or wherever, and I don’t bet so much on it any more.
FTBB: Finally the bookies must hate you- any interesting stories about when you bump into them which you must do from time to time when you do make it out to tracks/functions etc?
Have no idea if they hate me, suspect they just view me as a bit of a nuisance. I’d like to think that my column helps encourage newcomers to the sport to become interested in betting on horseracing, but whether the bookmakers would see things that way is another matter. I don’t really get to the track very often these days as my time is largely spent in front of the PC/VT so don’t really get the chance to bump into many people at all.
Thanks for your time Hugh!
Hope you found this interview informative.