Andrew Beyer: Rebel With A Cause

by | 11.13.2016 | 11:59pm
Andrew Beyer (right) with actor Eric Lange, who portrayed Beyer in the movie "Secretariat"

There was no fanfare, no rapturous odes, no good riddance or heartfelt goodbyes. There wasn't even a traditional gathering in the newsroom, where a ranking editor might offer a rousing speech followed by a round of applause and icing on a cake spelling out the words “Thank You.”

When Andrew Beyer ended his career as a journalist after 46 years of covering horse racing, barely a soul outside his inner circle seemed to take notice. Perhaps the greatest public advocate horseplayers have ever known, one of the sharpest minds ever to focus attention on their game, and the man who practically singlehandedly yanked turf writing out of the musty, romantic mists and into clear-eyed – and often polarizing – modern language simply called an editor at the Washington Post earlier this year and said he was done.

The Beyer Speed Figures he created, of course, are now an industry standard, and they will continue, allowing horseplayers to easily compare runners by the assignation of a number that reflects final time, the track surface and its variations throughout the day.

They are part of the past performances of every North American runner in the Daily Racing Form, and are used by countless farms in advertising the precocity of their stallions. The speed figures demonstrated their immense value going into the Breeders' Cup Classic – showing that Arrogate had run faster winning the Travers than California Chrome had ever run in his life. Before the advent of the figures, horseplayers could only guess.

Beyer, working with a team, remains deeply immersed in daily figure making, but his retirement as a writer leaves a gaping hole in the already withered world of independent national horse racing journalism.

“As the end of 2015 approached, I thought, ‘You know, I've done it,'” Beyer, 72, said recently at his home in Washington, D.C. “Forty-six years of writing a racing column was enough. The Post, as you know, lost interest in racing a long time ago. So that certainly was a factor. Again, the figures were taking enough of my time and mental energy so that at this stage of my life I really didn't need two jobs. It was not like a wrenching thing. I didn't write about it or say I was retiring because maybe I'll wind up doing some writing for the Racing Form. In that case, saying you are having a farewell and then having my byline out there again would have looked stupid, so I just decided to go gentle into the good night.”

In withdrawing from the front lines of racing, Beyer still plans to do the things he loves best: betting on horses, managing his speed figures empire, cycling at least 20 miles each day through Rock Creek Park, pursuing a passion for contemporary art, and traveling the world each year with his wife Susan, preferably to a place where all these interests converge and also happens to be renowned wine country.

Yet with his written voice gone silent, love him or hate him, it's a tremendous loss for racing.

“He was a brilliant writer, a great authority on the sport and a wonderful colleague for more than 40 years,” said George Solomon, Beyer's longtime editor at the Washington Post. “He stood apart from the crowd. He was as professional in covering the sport of horse racing as David Broder was covering politics for the Washington Post.”

Steven Crist, the former publisher and columnist at the Daily Racing Form and racing writer at the New York Times – and, like Beyer, a great champion of the horseplayer – took his evaluation further.

“Andy rebelled and set an example for others of us to rebel in the same way against the old-timey sports writing,” Crist said. “Andy never believed – and it's correct – that if a jockey had a sick grandmother, that's why a horse won a race. Too much sports writing is about that, overcoming obstacles and character and all that kind of stuff.

“I said this at [my] retirement dinner a few weeks ago, and Andy was there: For all the progress that has been made in the horseplayer's lot in life at the racetrack, Andy doesn't get enough credit. He was 10 years ahead of the curve; things like being skeptical of overbet horses, and the way racetrack executives used to behave – like they were unaware gambling was taking place on the premise. A lot of us owe so much of what we do to Andy being the trailblazer, and this thing” – racing coverage – “deserves a different look and a different approach.”

That approach, as Howard Cosell liked to say, was “telling it like it is.”


Straight out of Harvard
Beyer, as his legions of followers know, bailed out of Harvard before graduating to play the horses full time and would develop his speed figures in the early 1970s.

Born in Carbondale, Ill., Beyer had been gambling since boyhood, in Erie, Pa., on games like pinball. He first talked his parents into a trip to the racetrack at age 12.

At Harvard, he wrote for the Crimson – the student newspaper – covering sports and making up rock and roll quizzes. His serious studying took place at Suffolk Downs, Lincoln Downs, Narragansett and assorted poker tables.

His failure to complete his English degree showed the depth of his obsession. He skipped a senior-year exam on Chaucer to drive to Long Island to bet on Amberoid in the 1966 Belmont Stakes. Beyer, whose father taught history at Southern Illinois University, finished out of the money at Harvard, but Amberoid came in and paid $13.

Beyer began his professional journalism career as a general sportswriter in 1966 for the Washington Post and left in 1970 when Dave Burgin, the sports editor at the Washington Daily News – the No. 3 newspaper in town – gave him a shot as a full-time racing columnist.

Beyer had two big breaks in his writing career, and the first took place in that role because of his fascination with a horse named Sun in Action.

Before Solomon became sports editor at the Post, he and Beyer were colleagues in the Washington Daily News sports department, and one cold December afternoon Beyer talked him into a drive to Philadelphia to play a horse at Liberty Bell Park.

“The racing column was back on page 62 or whatever,” Beyer recalled. “I spotted a horse running in Philadelphia that I fell in love with. I had never done anything like this, but I wrote a column saying, ‘Stop worrying about your Christmas money. Sun in Action in the second race at Liberty Bell can't lose.'

“George accompanied me and we went up to the track. It was an excruciating, head-bobbing photo finish. Sun in Action loses by a nose. There was a steward's inquiry and they disqualify the winner and put me up, and Sun in Action pays $43.20.

“The next day, the streamer headline on the front of A1 of the tabloid was, ‘Andrew Beyer's horse comes in.' That made me as a journalist in Washington.”

His second major break came four years later when an old Harvard classmate, who had become an editor at Houghton Mifflin, asked Beyer if he would like to write a book.

“I said, ‘Gee, yeah. I guess so,'” Beyer said.

Through the 1970s, Beyer was living a classically degenerate single man's life, betting on horses in the daytime, writing his racing column, and then mixing it up at night on the raucous Georgetown bar scene.

“There was no great expectation of success for this book,” Beyer said. “The first printing, the press run was like 5,000 copies for a major national publisher. I'll never forget a friend of mine called me up and said, ‘Have you seen the New York Times today?' I said, ‘No,' and he said, ‘Your book has been reviewed.' Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the highbrow literary critic of the Times, wrote a rave review of ‘Picking Winners' and said this is a book that you'll read again and again if you get serious about the business.

“That put me on the map. It's still in print after 40 years.”


Blunt-force trauma
When “Picking Winners” came out in 1975 and revolutionized how bettors approached the racing game and unlocked the mysteries of the figures and speed handicapping, Beyer's column in the Washington Star-News and then the Post was like a master class for horseplayers.

"Picking Winners," published in 1975, revolutionized how horseplayers approached

“Picking Winners,” published in 1975, revolutionized how horseplayers approached the game

There was a tremendous amount of racing coverage in the Baltimore-Washington region at the time, with Dale Austin at the Sun, Bill Boniface and Charles Lang at the Evening Sun, Gerald Strine at the Washington Post, William C. Phillips and Tom Atwell at the Daily Racing Form, Charles Lamb and Clem Florio at the News American, and Joe Kelly at the Washington Star-News.

These men knew their stuff, but, save for Florio – an idiosyncratic genius whose tutoring of Beyer on observing horses took up an entire chapter of “Picking Winners” – they were locked in a bygone world, writing hoary columns like “Paddock Palaver” and “Bang Tales.”

Beyer and Florio didn't mingle with the horsey set. They wrote for the public, the horseplayers, and they came out guns blazing.

On April 1, 1974, Florio opened both barrels on the Maryland Racing Commission for approving the liberal use of the diuretic Lasix without any plan to inform bettors which horses were using the drug.

“The commissioners, who were appointed to allegedly protect the public, think such important information is the exclusive property of the horsemen,” he wrote. “But the fans don't complain, so the bureaucrats, led by J. Newton Brewer, must take that to mean that we don't care. How did they ever get to be commissioners? We have seen more leadership in a game of Ring-a-Round Rosey.”

A week later, Beyer also took aim at Brewer – the racing commission chairman – in a two-part series.

“If the decision to withhold information about Lasix were the result of a conscious conspiracy, that would have been less maddening than the real reason – Brewer's arrogance and undisguised contempt for the betting public that makes the existence of horse racing possible.”

Besides delivering blunt-force trauma, Beyer also delighted at turning in Damon Runyon-style profiles of the degenerate characters he came across. Georgetown nightlife in the 1970s and the overabundance of wise guys at Laurel and Pimlico were for Beyer what the Moulin Rouge was for Toulouse-Lautrec.

In 1978, he opened a column like this: “As he left a poker game last week and contemplated the fact that he had no money, no permanent job and no prospects, Harry managed to think with bemused detachment about the cyclical nature of life. ‘Somehow,' he said, ‘This all seems disturbingly familiar.'”

Occasionally, though, Beyer could border on malicious, like when he wrote a column ranking the 10 worst jockeys in Maryland, but the audacity and certainty of his convictions were invigorating and blew the doors open to a more forthright racing coverage.

After Gate Dancer rode Pimlico's lightning rail bias to victory in the 1984 Preakness, Beyer began his post-mortem on the race like this: “Imagine that the Super Bowl were played on a field consisting half of hard artificial turf and half of ankle-deep mud. Or that the pro basketball championships were being decided on a court where one of the hoops had been raised to 20 feet.

“Such conditions would of course be farcical and unfair – about as farcical, in fact, as the 109th Preakness was.”

Even at his most rapturous when writing about, say, Easy Goer, Beyer never lapsed into treacle. He simply wasn't wired for romance about the game.

“I'm not,” he said. “I got into it as a gambler. The betting side of the game has always been the thing that held me to it. Obviously, I cherish the memories of the great moments of the sport that I've seen, the exploits of Secretariat and some of the great individual races. But I never had that warm and sentimental feeling about racing like somebody like Bill Nack has.”

Nack, long a friend of Beyer, is the lyrical author of the classic book “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion.”

So, with a gambler's detachment, Beyer ruthlessly sized up the regal and beloved Personal Ensign, the champion filly who never lost a race. He applied his speed figures, judged the quality of her opposition, correctly pointed out that the only time she faced males was in a three-horse Whitney Handicap, and let fly.

In a January 1989 column, Beyer cut through the contentious Alysheba vs. Personal Ensign Horse of the Year debate: “I have spoken to two voters recently who said they solved their dilemma by casting half a vote for the colt, half a vote for the filly. This is nonsense. There was no need for such indecisiveness, for there was no doubt about the year's outstanding Thoroughbred performer. Alysheba was the horse of the year – and any opinion to the contrary is sentimental claptrap.”

Many infuriated racing fans saw this as flippancy, and over the years Beyer cultivated as many detractors as followers.

Before her final race in 2010, Beyer wrote this about Zenyatta, who many already had canonized as one of racing's immortals: “When racing fans of the future look back at the record of a mare who excelled on long-forgotten substances called Pro-Ride and Cushion Track, they are apt to regard Zenyatta as a historical curiosity rather than an all-time great racehorse.”

Six years after the column ran, Beyer stood by it.

“I felt when I had opinions, I had confidence in them,” he said. “… when people were extolling Zenyatta as one of the great horses of all time, I wrote that many times, not to be controversial but because it was a fact. She was a phony.”

Beyer doesn't mince words about Horse of the Year Zenyatta.

Beyer doesn't mince words about Horse of the Year Zenyatta. “She was a phony,” he says.

In 2006, Beyer wrote a column about the Al Maktoum family, the rulers of Dubai, scoffing at their methodology for trying to win American Classic races while spending scads of money on the cream of the foal crop.

“Well, that was a piece of trash journalism because the man doesn't have a clue what goes on inside the Al Maktoum family,” said Rick Nichols, the Shadwell Stables general manager, in a blistering response to an interview question after Shadwell had won the Breeders' Cup Classic with Invasor. “He called all the trainers and managers a bunch of organizing men.”

The advent of the “here comes everybody” nature of the Internet further opened a Pandora's Box of malevolence toward Beyer.

“Andy Beyer made more money from his books and selling his speed figures to the Racing Times and the Daily Racing Form than he ever did betting,” one grumpy fan commented on “He's still on the Form's payroll. He's about the worse (sic) handicapper there is [his absolutely horrible yearly Kentucky Derby picks are proof].”

The critics, hidden behind their computers, came in waves, and after getting a taste of them, Beyer stopped paying attention.

“My guess is plenty of journalists feel the same way,” he said. “People lurking in anonymity saying, ‘This guy is an idiot.' I have my own standards. I had a sports editor who held me to high standards, a newspaper that held me to high standards. I think a lot of people in the sport viewed me as a knocker, as a negativist. There's always been a lot of stuff in horse racing in terms of honesty issues, drug issues. The game is negative, and if you're a journalist you're supposed to write about it.”

Crist saw critics attack Beyer for everything, including the speed figures, which were perhaps the greatest gift ever bestowed upon horseplayers. If a fan thought a horse had run a tremendous race and Beyer accorded it a low number, they would attack him for playing favorites, disregarding the mathematical underpinning behind the given figure.

“There is this inexplicable hostility toward him that made my chest hurt every time I saw these things,” Crist said. “There is this anti-intellectual thing, and he's the enemy of people who like horseys. He's portrayed that way. Beyer doesn't go down and stand next to the track and look at the flowing manes.”


The ultimate goal
Besides his strong opinion, what also made Beyer's writing so imposing was its exactness. He cared about composition and sentence structure.

“My mother was a strict grammarian,” Beyer said. “Even as a child, any mistake would not go unnoticed in the Beyer household. I always thought about how to put sentences together properly, and I guess that shows what a dinosaur I am because not many people care anymore.”

Crist marveled at his writing while coming up and looked to Beyer as a model for his own work.

“Andy has always been underappreciated as a writer,” Crist said. “They think of him as the figs and an advocate for horseplayers, but he was such a good writer. His command of the language and sentence construction – he's a real, old-style professional writer. He still minds his whoms and whos. He sent me a note one time about the misuse of whom and who. Both of our mothers were teachers.”

Beyer's writing and opinions were based on practiced craft and rigorous thinking, yet they stood side by side with what was often his ultimate goal – to make a killing at the betting windows.

Beyer is a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame's Media Roll of Honor

Beyer is a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame's Media Roll of Honor

While Beyer already is a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame's Media Roll of Honor, John Doyle, the 2011 NHC handicapping champion, suggested in a column for the Horse Racing Nation website that Beyer should be the first horseplayer inducted as well. Beyer's swashbuckling gambling while on the job for the Post is legendary, and he often shared his betting plans and exploits with his readers.

One Preakness Day morning in the Pimlico press box, before the races had begun, Beyer was asked if he liked anything on the card.

“Not really,” he said in his measured, laconic drawl, “but there is a horse in the first race that I think is isolated speed.”

When the race was official, one of the mutuel tellers made a call downstairs to the money room. Beyer had won every dollar.

“There's something deeply satisfying about cleaning out the press box window in the first race on Preakness Day,” Beyer said, his pockets stuffed with money, sitting back down to do his actual job.

Even more Beyer-esque was his cockeyed crushing of the 1989 Kentucky Derby, the year he was at the heart of the great East-West debate, with his speed figures insisting on the superiority of Easy Goer over Sunday Silence.

“As a degenerate gambler, I tend to remember certain bets more vividly than classic moments of racing drama,” Beyer said in an interview for the website Kentucky Confidential in 2012. “Las Vegas then took bets on the last-place finisher, and Western Playboy, the well-regarded winner of the Blue Grass, was 20 to 1 to trail the field. He looked good on paper, but he was training dully at Churchill Downs – five furlongs in 1:03 – and his trainer, Harvey Vanier, seemed to be exuding pessimism. So I bet him to trail the field.

“As 122,653 people roared for the first of the epic duels between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, my binoculars were trained on the rear of the pack for the head-and-head duel between Faultless Ensign and Western Playboy.”

Chris DeCarlo, in his first Derby, rode his heart out on Faultless Ensign. Veteran Randy Romero, on Western Playboy, just wanted to get the race over with.

Easy Goer lost, but Beyer had won.

“Andy's gambling had so much to do with his writing,” Crist said. “He was the first racing writer I knew of – other than charlatans and frauds – that wrote that ‘I'm betting on racing and I'm winning.' That pissed off a lot of people. He was not the most popular guy in the press box because he won. I don't think most of his colleagues were rooting for him.

“You sit up in a press box for 30 years and along comes this guy with his crazy numbers and he wins and you haven't.”

As Crist points out, without gambling Beyer may never have developed into the writer he became. He took the core premise that horse racing should serve the bettors that supported it and extrapolated that into journalistic inquiries of horsemanship, track management, medication and industry governance. Along the way, he told a lot of great stories, knocked down sacred cows, tweaked noses and reveled in his own mischief.

“At the Post, you had to be journalistically responsible, and if there was controversial stuff, the lawyers would get into it,” Beyer said. “So George [Solomon], like any good editor, made sure that I covered all the bases; if I was criticizing somebody or accused somebody of malfeasance, I picked up the phone and got a comment, or got a ‘Fuck you, Beyer.' I rather just pop off, but, you know, working for the Post, you had to [make those calls].”

There are strict rules against conflicts of interest at major newspapers, and betting is one of them. A football beat writer would be thrown off the staff if caught betting on games. At the Washington Post, Beyer turned those rules inside out.

In 1990, he made the two greatest scores of his life, writing a column about and then hitting an exotic wager called the double-triple. In April, he won $134,682 by hitting the bet at Pimlico. Six months later, he hauled in $195,070.50 on the double-triple at Laurel.

Before the score at Pimlico, the Post published a column titled, “A Beyer's Guide to the Double-Triple” in which Beyer explained, technically but succinctly, exactly how to win the bet.

Post racing reporter Vinnie Perrone wrote about the second bonanza for the paper.

“He placed his wager in the press box and raced down three floors to the Sports Palace, intent on sitting in the same seat and watching the same TV screen he had employed in his double-triple conquest last April,” Perrone wrote.

Beyer's final quote in the piece is a gem.

“The Sports Palace applauded when I went to the window,” he said. ‘It was a touching moment.”

“He was always honest with his readers,” Solomon said when asked if he ever had an issue with Beyer's gambling. “He told readers from Day One he was a horseplayer and a writer. He would share opinions with the readers, which led to some of them doing quite well at the window.

“He never let his gambling get in the way of the journalism. He knew how I felt and how the Post felt, and we knew how he felt. The only jealousy or envy among other writers toward Andy was many wished they could write as well.”

Asked if he has taken time since his retirement to reflect on his writing career, Beyer waved off the question.

“I'm very busy with and engaged by the figures, so I'm not in my dotage looking back over my professional life,” he said.

Yet he expresses dismay that in the 46 years he wrote about racing, the sport failed to eliminate the dramatic form reversals brought on by trainers he believes clearly cheat by using banned drugs. The collapse of the newspaper industry and independent reporting, so essential to putting a spotlight on bad actors, only compounds the problem.

“The Post has abandoned [racing] as have most newspapers around the country. It's kind of the major development, the major thing that's happened to our sport, and it's demoralizing,” Beyer said. “There just isn't much serious racing journalism left because it really takes a serious, professional newspaper to do the right kind of investigation.

“How many websites, how many editors in this day and age, call you and challenge a story or say, ‘We need to have a lawyer look at this,' or, ‘You need to investigate this a little more thoroughly'? That's how the Washington Post operated. Again, the drug thing is very tough to deal with because you can't uncover the truth. All you can do is look at what's happening and how certain trainers are performing and say, ‘Gee, here are all the signs of somebody who is a crook,' but [writing just that is] a little hard to get away with.”

Asked if he had any thoughts on what would be good for racing journalism in the future, Beyer simply said, “No,” and then cracked up laughing. “I've moved on.”


Broader interests
Beyer is a very private public figure. He has conducted handicapping seminars at tracks for years but is not one for a lot of idle chitchat with strangers.

“If someone comes up to Andy and starts telling him some boring betting story, he'll just say ‘excuse me' and walk away,” Crist said.

When Crist was with the New York Times, Beyer treated him politely until one day Crist showed he had been hard at work with par time charts, making his own speed figures. That changed the dynamic between them.

“When he saw you'd done the work and took it seriously, he would let you into his circle very quickly,” Crist said. “He is so intimidating at first and forbidding. You want to say something smart and impress him, and he's aloof, but when he approves of you, he's a great friend.”

In the 1980s, fully established at the Washington Post, Beyer began to broaden his palette of experience and fell in love with contemporary painting while dating a woman before he met his wife who took him to an art opening at the Hirshhorn Museum.

“I'm looking around – contemporary art wasn't on my radar screen – and I look at this one painting, a street scene, a cityscape in SoHo, and I said, ‘Holy shit, this is just great,'” Beyer recalled.

He approached the artist at the reception, and before long he was at a gallery in New York negotiating to buy a piece by the Chinese American painter Han Hsiang-ning.

“Except for the houses I've owned, I've never gotten such a sense of satisfaction from a material possession in my life,” he said. “So, that sort of got me interested in contemporary art, and when I married Susan, who comes from a very artsy background, that became one of our common denominators.”

In Susan Vallon, a successful interior designer who loves art, theater and dance, Beyer had met his match. One of her grandfathers was a lifelong gambler.

Beyer didn't marry until he was 43. Nack tells a story about having lunch with him before he met Vallon and asking why he hadn't settled down.

Beyer looked across the table and said, “When I meet a woman who I can come home from the track to and say, ‘I lost $5,000 today,' and she says, ‘That's OK, Andy, you'll get ‘em tomorrow,' that's when I'll get married.”

Beyer and his wife continue to collect paintings and recently were featured in an article in Smithsonian magazine about their legacy bequest to the Hirshhorn and Smithsonian.

Together, they try to take one major international trip each year. In 2015, while in Provence, in southeastern France, Beyer rode his bicycle up part of one of the most famous mountains in cycling, Mont Ventoux. He also has climbed Alpe d'Huez in the Central French Alps.

“As long as these old bones hold up I'll want to keep pedaling my bicycle as much as I can,” Beyer said. “Also when we travel, I'm always looking for racing adventures, and so we've been to racing in some obscure locations.”

These journeys have taken him to tracks in Chile and Uruguay and to Phu Tho Horse Racing Ground, in Ho Chi Minh City, the lone organized racetrack in Vietnam.

On a trip to Japan, Beyer got a true sense of his influence and renown. He and Susan emerged from their hotel in Tokyo for their first walk through the city, and a middle-aged Japanese man approached him and began bowing furiously.

Beyer watched dumbfounded until the man finally rose and said, “Mr. Beyer, the handicappers of Japan are all your children.”

  • greg

    Andrew Beyer created a “figure” that I have found more useless than any other handicapping tool, anything that can and is arbitrarily changed after a trainer complains is just silly. The ONLY function it serves is to allow breeding farms to hype the # their stallion received to justify stud fees, however on track, absolutely a waste of space, and I’ve been handicapping since ~1970 so I have seen many changes that are helpful. He has succeeded in extending his time in the spotlight, but that won’t get a 10-1 shot home first either

    • Tinky

      Complete nonsense. Without basic speed figures to adjust for track variants, most handicappers would be far worse off.

      • greg

        Use the DRF figures to the right of the pp line, it also has a track variant figure

        • Tinky

          There are many options, and I am not claiming that one is superior to the others. But Beyer’s ‘mainstreamed’ the use of figures, and handicappers are better off for it.

        • The DRF variant is calibrated on the track record. Minimal value at best.

          • tony a

            No, the speed number is according how many ticks off out above the fastest race in I believe the last 2 years. The track variant of calculated according to the times raced that day.

          • brussellky

            The problem with their variant is that it makes no distinction for what races the card consisted of that day. A card with 6 $10k claimers will always produce times further from the par than a card with 6 stakes races. For this reason alone, their variant is completely useless.

          • tony a

            Well that was why beyer’s numbers were revolutionary.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            Also, it is affected by the quality of horses running on that particular day. The better the horses, the lower the variant.

      • GT Bloodstock

        I agree. While one can’t just blindly bet on the horse with the highest figure in every race, speed figures are useful to separate contenders from pretenders in a race.

    • Greg, you are being silly. Maybe it is not your particular cup of tea, but it does and has performed a service for many segments of the industry. Just because you don’t choose to use Beyer numbers is no reason to trash them or the man. C’mon, man!

      • greg

        While “ripping” him personally may not be right I do stand by my opinion that his “figures” are of no value to me as a handicapper primarily due to the randomness of the ability to adjust or change them on a whim, what value is it if a horse is given a figure of 100 and then after someone complains about how low (or high) that figure is it becomes a 90 or 105, and we both know that happens.

    • Michael Stapler

      ……..And how much are you ahead for the year? LOL

  • Joel Schiff

    Sorry to see him leaving the Post. Although I am not a fan of Beyer speed figures, I realize that understanding and using speed figures is an important part of good handicapping.

    • ross

      He only worked 6 days a year at the Post, how could you tell he was leaving when he was never there

    • John Herzberg

      Love Beyer as a writer. Hope he continues writing
      for DRF. His speed figures have made me hit many a large pick 4,s and some
      pick sixes with small investments.
      Have also used hIs figs in hcp. Contests with great success. SINCE using his figs many years ago,always in tHe black. THANKS ANDY.

      • Frank

        Andy has been the most influential writer, handicapper and figure maker for the last 40 years. Glad to hear he has added art and bicycling to the list of things and hope he enjoys his time.

        All the best to Andy!

        Frank Polk

  • mongo98

    Beyer’s speed figs didn’t measure Zenyatta’s performance accurately. When she fell off the map early and the other riders conspired to slow the pace to a crawl she unleashed her tremendous closing run, in which she would run down fresh runners from far behind. The pace retarded the final Beyer figure. Anyone watching, could see her finish with an incredible surge. Beyer numbers were based on final time instead of eye-popping performance. Too bad Andy didn’t understand. Zenyatta was a Breeder’s Cup winning mare and nearly repeated the feat. Why, because when the pace was sharp/fast it Highlighted her closing rush and produced the final Beyer that Andy needed.

    • Tinky

      You don’t understand Beyer figures. They are designed simply to reflect final times, adjusted for track variants. If you want pace-adjusted figures, buy Ragozin Sheets, etc.

      From the DRF site, bold emphasis mine:

      Successful Beyer Speed Figure bettors are those who remain flexible when evaluating current numbers and are able to adjust to changing track conditions, trainer placement or intent, post position, workout tabs, pace and the addition of medication (Lasix). Beyer Speed Figures are a tremendous and reliable gauge of a horse’s true ability. They’re not, however, a neat, mechanical numerical system for pointing out magical winners, which many people interpret them to be.

      • mikec

        Ragosin and Thorograph figures have nothing to do with pace and both are flawed formulas vs pure Beyer speed figs

        • Tinky

          You are wrong. They produce “pace-adjusted” figures, while Beyer does not.

          In terms of the relative values of each, there is no easy answer. Beyer Figures are more objective, but not completely so.

          • mikec

            Since I have been doing work on speed figs for 30 years you can bet your life that pace is NOT part of “sheets” formula. Ground loss/weight/wind and projection are the only factors. A notation of pace is sometimes noted. In extreme cases, raw time is disregarded b/c of very slow pace which adversely affects the final time.

          • Tinky

            What you have described is precisely what I was referring to – Ragozin’s pace adjustments for slow-paced races. I didn’t say, nor imply, that it was “part of their formula”.

          • Michael Stapler

            OMG. Here it is in a nutshell. You can easily pick winners by predicting the PACE of a race and the anticipated running order.
            Once you determine the pace and running order, you can easily work backwards and “see” what beyer fig a horse “should” run in that situation. I have been playing 2-3-4-5 horses a day for a long, long time with Beyers figs and made enough money to fund a small country.
            You just need to “use” the figs to most productive way.
            There you have it folks, your key to winning at the track. Now everyone with any pace knowledge can quit heir jobs.
            IUf you do not understand what I just posted, you should try bingo instead.

      • kyle

        They do make adjustments for (slow) pace, especially on turf. It’s actually somewhat perverse – saying horses ran faster because they ran slower. As to Beyer himself, absolutely one of my three favorite racing writers along with Bill Barich and the late William Murray. But his opinion has some huge gaps in perspicuity. Two examples given here are great examples – he’s just stupidly wrong about Zenyata, and he seems to have been blinded both to Gate Dancer’s talent and the effect of pace in mid-May 1984.

        • Tinky

          Yes, you’re right, Beyer does adjust for slow paces as well.

    • Michael Stapler

      The day Zenyatta caught a fast pace AND a good field, she lost.

      • victor stauffer

        Now there’s a genius of a post. She ran at a track she’d never run on. She was blinded by a bank of lights she’d never dealt with. She was beaten by a really nice horse who got arguably the best ride in the history of the sport and she was trounced by a rapidly diminishing nose. This a year after beating a field of high quality males in the same race. Curious. What did you do with the remaining 58 seconds you had left after allocating a minute to construct your take?

        • Michael Stapler

          First of all she beat horses on SYNTHETIC.
          Secondly, How much does a diminishing nose pay at the window. The guy in front of me had trouble cashing his “diminishing nose” tixs

        • kyle

          I always thought she lost that Classic the year before when she got scratched out of her start Derby weekend. Putting all else aside, Michael is right that she had a hole, but the way she filled it – like no,other horse ever has – is what made her transcendent.

  • Curt Muth

    “Crist saw critics attack Beyer for everything, including the speed figures, which were perhaps the greatest gift ever bestowed upon horseplayers”

    Speed figures and the trainers who came to TB racing from QH racing are the main culprits for the state of US racing and it’s obsession with speed over stamina. So, a great gift to give to horseracing.

    • really?

      I never knew running fast was a bad way to judge horses. Get a life.

      • Curt Muth

        Non est opus vestrum, if you have an opinion at least be man/woman enough to stand behind it.

  • SaratogaJ

    He was equally entertaining and annoying. I looked forward to his columns knowing that I’d never be indifferent to what I would read.
    Steve Crist mentioned that Beyer isn’t one to show patience with others, however I had a single encounter with him and found him to be surprisingly gracious and engaging.
    In the late late70s or early 80s I walked by him in the Saratoga clubhouse and muttered “what do you think of the two Delaware shippers?” I was on my way to the window to bet the better priced one in a NW/2 filliy/mare allowance on the turf. Surprisingly he stopped in his tracks and gave me his analysis of the race which had the other Delaware filly winning, some shippers from Belmont in the money and my filly not having a chance. He was cordial and most willing to take the minute or two to chat up a total stranger. I smiled, thanked him and moved on to make my bet. My filly went wire to wire and won at 12-1, Andy’s didn’t hit the board. I remember that day and how good it felt to have out handicapped the expert for that one time.

    • bhood

      Story of Andy’s life. Always picking the wrong horse.

  • Tinky

    This is an excellent article. Beyer is obviously an icon, and his figures have been extremely influential not only in the U.S., but indirectly throughout the world.

    He was important to me personally as I visited him at Laurel decades ago, having been influenced by his My $50,000 Year at the Races book, and he was both generous with his time and encouraging. I also knew him later, as a professional, and was impressed by, among other things, his awareness of certain gaps in his understanding of the game.

    Having said all of that, while the emergence and accessibility of speed figures was a great benefit to serious horseplayers, they did also influence the game somewhat negatively in other ways. I believe that the escalation of prices of two-year-olds in training, based largely on how fast they breezed, and the resulting popularity of such sales, can be tied fairly closely to the growth of importance of speed figures in races. It became relatively easy for agents and trainers to convince buyers at sales that ‘faster is better’, and that very fast times warrant big expenditures.

    In my view, for which I believe that there is plenty of evidence to support, this was a largely negative development.

    The correlation between figures and purchases of horses that have already raced is a bit more complex, as there is much more information on which to make assessments. But in both cases, it hasn’t been purely negative, as there are always horses that fly under the radar, and they are typically undervalued as a result.

    Finally, while Andy, like everyone else on earth, has his faults, those who seek to dismiss him and/or his accomplishments with the wave of a hand are being ridiculous. He was and remains extremely important and influential, a tireless and honest advocate for horseplayers, and deeply passionate about the game.

    I wish him many more “I’m king of the world!” moments in the years ahead.

    • bhood

      OK, you can get off your knees now.

      • Tinky

        Every one of your three “contributions” to this thread (thus far) has been supremely ignorant. In fact, if I were Ray, I’d delete them and consider banning you.

        If you can actually produce a serious criticism, perhaps readers will consider taking you seriously.

        • Mike

          Tinky you do realize that they take the liberty of changing the Beyer figures whenever they want right??? So you can bet on a horse that supposedly ran a 95 Beyer that gets crushed and the next time he runs that 95 will appear as a 78 in the form. So everyone lost their shirt betting a 95 that might have been a 78. How this is good for anyone is lost on me. Full disclosure is important. Wake up. They publish figures and bet against them. You guys are really lost.

          • Tinky

            You, like most of Beyer’s strident critics, either don’t understand the process of making and refining figures, or are frustrated by your inability to succeed playing the ponies.

            The example that you use above is wildly exaggerated, and completely distorts the logical basis for occasionally adjusting figures after some time passes. No speed figures are ‘pure’; there is always some subjectivity in the process of projecting, and judging nuances like tracks changing during the course of a card, slow paces, etc. Given that, no figure maker will get it right all of the time, and subsequent races may provide opportunities to refine earlier figures. This approach is, ironically, given your misunderstanding of the process, the very best way to refine accurate figures, and not to do so would be far more distortive of horses’ records.

            The idea that Beyer intentionally publishes bad figures to bet against them is ludicrous. Having said that, however, I do believe that it is reasonable to be cynical about both Ragozin and Jerry Brown, as they are also paid to recommend horses for sale, an obvious conflict of interest that should not be ignored.

          • Mike

            You seem to have everything figured out. All of that based on some truth that was posted. And it is ragozin and brown that are a problem. Very unbiased of you. Maybe I can be successful one day. Just need to understand this game like you do. Now I really feel sorry for myself. Going to try harder from now on to study the beyers. That’s the key. Thank you for all your help and insight into me and the sport. Hope others have learned from you also.

        • bhood

          F off you crusty old wind-bag. I’ll give you 3 guesses on how much I care if you take me seriously. I’ve got some news that may shock you. The world is not in love with you and bows and your presence. Now go tattle you whiny little beech.

    • Concerned Observer

      As I get older I have more and more respect for people that have the “guts” to speak out on the issues….any issue. Such a large portion of the human population watches the world go by without a comment. Maybe it is just horse racing, but it was Andy’s passion and he expressed his views boldly for all to see. We all have to respect that.

  • bhood

    Bye, nobody’s going to miss ya. Let’s see if picking a Derby winner is on your bucket list before you kick it.

  • Michael Castellano

    Beyer is, whatever you think of him personally, a real life Daymon Runyon figure. Few know more than he does about racing. The Beyer’s speed ratings are a very useful guide to a horse’s true ability, but they are not intended to be the sole factor in handicapping a race. One thing he was always right about was the fact that it is the gambler who is the financial anchor of the sport, and anyone who forgets that is a fool. And those that neglect that fact when trying to promote the sport are even bigger fools.

    • Steven Hill

      Many say Arrogate was juiced

      • Michael Castellano

        I agree.

      • Charlotte

        Unbridled’s Song ran some his best races on the deep sandy tracks of New York. Couldn’t possibly be Arrogate inherited that great speed, stride and a penchant for softer footing from his sire, or the fact that Mike Smith rode his sire as well or even that he has been trained to perfection by B. Baffert.

        • Steven Hill

          I had lunch with a former employee/handicapper(I used to work there part-time too) of the DRF last Saturday @ Molly’s in NYC …and we were discussing how the little guys are getting caught with drug suspensions and the top trainers are walking away with super titles low odds wins, everyone thinks there clean…they always attacked Oscar, Ferriola, ethnic types and it’s true the Boys did run to the $50 window when certain horses raced. I saw it with my @ eyes. But now with the drug testing is so intense all the little guys get caught they can’t afford the vets and the new stuff whatever it is…among a group a betters this summer @ Saratoga my friend called leading trainer Chad Brown “dirty” the group was taken aback. He made the same comment bout Baffort and Arrogate. I don’t know…bettors have instincts others might call it paranoia.

          • vinceNYC

            So trainers who win all juice and trainers who lose don’t correct.
            THEY ALL juice to some level…ever consider that top trainers who have access to more dollars from their owners get the absolute best work from the vets money can buy ……..that doesnt fit your paradigm I guess….If I felt as strongly as you do SURELY I would stop betting..only a fool would bet on an event where the playing field is so tilted

          • Steven Hill

            The (mafia) dosen’t Bet big at the windows on certain trainers to lose money Jack

      • togahombre

        many say aliens built the pyramids too

        • Steven Hill

          Infantile Response..Anthony “Tony” La Russa Said….great players take every advantage they can to win and why not trainers it competition and big $ and fame…they don’t always play nice

          • togahombre

            it’s infantile because it catches you where it hurts, no proof, the backstretch thrives on jealousy and gossip, without proof that’s all it is,

          • Steven Hill

            Not jealous, Chad Todd Steve…winning a tremendous % rate low odds
            fair game? maybe…doesn’t bother me I’ll be against them let the lemmings collect 50 cents on the $1

          • Michael Castellano

            It’s naïve to think that cheating is not part of racing in America. It’s not unlike what went on in the Tour de France. Once one person gets away with it, almost everybody will do it.

          • togahombre

            i never said that, it’s one thing to believe there’s cheating, it’s a whole different matter to be so pure as to accuse someone by name without a shred of proof, if your ok with that then just stand up and say it

          • Michael Castellano

            You won’t see proof ever with the currently deliberately lax testing processes. All trainers, whether on the level or not, are tainted by the current systems in place. As far as Baffert as some others are concerned, there is proof. 7 young horses do not suddenly drop dead by accident. As far as Arrogate, his performance is tainted by the trainer’s reputation as well as an extremely suspicious performance in the Travers. I have been following racing since I was ten, and never saw a horse run as well as he did in the Travers. NEVER. Baffert does not merit getting the benefit of the doubt. Think back to the Tour de France. It was eventually uncovered that most of the leading riders were juicing. Lance Armstrong being the most well known. I’m afraid racing is in a similar situation.

          • togahombre

            if somebody went after you to damage your reputation claiming they don’t need proof to do so, you’d be screaming foul, playing victim and lawyering up, and after the show your putting up, it might be pretty funny

          • Michael Castellano

            Nope, I have nothing to hide, and I’m not a trainer who drugs my horses. And I didn’t kill 7 of my horses trying to get an edge for winning a race. That is a fact, not an accusation.

          • togahombre

            i see your point, an occasional lynching is sure keep the rest in line

          • Michael Castellano

            Interesting, how you refuse to acknowledge the evidence against Baffert as concrete proof that he has juiced horses in the past. What makes you think he’s changed his ways? Instead you post nonsense about my approval of lynching. Before he killed the seven horses, I too admired him. It took 7 sudden deaths before he finally took his horses off the thyroid juice and was forced to acknowledge this. The only reason he was not punished was because it was technically not illegal and because the industry couldn’t face the scandal given his fame as Mr. Racing. So the incidents were forgiven and forgotten. When a horse of his runs a race not seen once in 50 years, you bet it’s suspicious.

          • togahombre

            how about frankel, the horse

          • Michael Castellano

            Probably on the level. Racing in Britain and overseas in general is much better regulated, and horses that are juiced usually have a short racing career once they are being juiced. You keep missing the point, racing regulations and the officials that are supposed to enforce them are badly broken in the US, and this throws a cloud of suspicion over all horses because of this. It also actually encourages cheating. In a highly competitive sport involving gambling, cheating is always around in some form. When enforcement is extremely lax, everyone feels they have to stretch, or break the rules, to survive. Having followed racing since the 60s, I see this trend very clearly. Just look at the damage various methods of juicing have effected nearly all sports, not just horse racing.

          • togahombre

            better regulated,the irish racing authorities are supposed to start testing tco2 next year

          • Charlotte

            Why not you ask? The owner of Arrogate takes great pride in the years of selective breeding and in his Bloodstock Agent the ability to pick out superb prospects. Clearly you have no idea who Arrogate is and why Bob Baffert was chosen to train him. So your’e just making s**t up.

          • Steven Hill

            No reason to be hostile…been on the professional side and the handicapping side since 1985…true no proof, I really didn’t think Juice my buddy did quite emphatically. No jealousy at all, just matter of fact.

          • togahombre

            that’s pretty cute, using your imaginary friends to slime these people while you stand aside blameless

          • Steven Hill

            I did agree with my friend’s sentiments…these trainers are winning like crazy and the lemmings are going to the window (online so heavily just like in the old days) Remembering ‘Miracle Man’ Trainer Oscar Barrera Teriyaki Stake, a $20,000 Barrera claim that won six consecutive races, all of them in March of 1986: $22,500 claiming races on March 2 and 10; a $35,000 claiming race March 13; a $45,000 claiming race March 21; an allowance race on March 25, and a $47,500 claimer March 31
            Today it’s the Top guys they can’t lose

    • Steven Hill

      see reply to Charlotte Juicing today top trainers not just the little guys

      • Michael Castellano

        I’ve been following racing since the days of Kelso and Dr. Fager. Never saw a race like Arrogate’s Travers. To come home in 23 and change after the fractions he set, and win by almost three seconds. If it quacks like a duck, it’s usually a duck. If it looks like juice, it’s probably juice.

        • Steven Hill

          Glad to see some perspective here on the site…”Tony” La Russa Said….great baseball players take every advantage they can to win and why not trainers it competition and big $ and fame…they don’t always play nice…I think all the drug testing hysterics are useless. Set a national standard testing of basic testing…they are always gonna find new exotic stuff

          • Michael Castellano

            What is needed is both out of race testing, unannounced, and video cameras in all the barns to detect and discourage unsupervised injections.

  • Flying J

    One thing strikes me about this article, the decline and ultimate death of some of the named newspapers. The Salad days of both printed news and horse racing, are, sadly, far in the past.

  • salthebarber

    Andy always brings a smile to my face. He makes us laugh at our own idiosychrasies as players. He also legitimizes us in our pursuit of perfecting something the rest of the world deem as a useless activity at best.

  • Thanks for writing this John. Andy is a great one. He deserves a lot of credit for his work on those connections (trainers, owners, vets, etc.) who chose to ignore the rules by cheating by using illegal and legal drugs. He is an absolutely brilliant writer. His clear prose and beautifully crafted pieces were a pure joy to read.

    • alan henry

      Thanks for an extraordinarily well reported and researched article, John. I grew up reading Beyer’s articles in the Washington Star, in which he sometimes said who he was going to bet on and why. I recall another in which he ripped a local jockey for never going inside. It was pure entertainment and joy. He has enhanced my lifelong love of racing immeasurably, Thank you, Andy.

  • Philip Forve

    A friend introduced me to Andy’s writing with ‘Beyer on Speed’. I still have the book. I learned and I enjoyed his writing. It’s the end of an era with his retirement. I wish many winning tickets and great trips in the years ahead. I do fear that the game we love has lost a watchdog who truly cared for the horseplayers.

  • FastBernieB

    As they become fewer and farther between, I realize how much I enjoy the writing of the Andy Beyers of the world. Writers who are not only flawless in their spelling and grammar but who also can tell a story that maintains my interest from start to finish. I’m not sure if the problem is the writers or the editors (probably both) but my daily newspaper is filled with grammatical errors. For this reason alone, Andy Beyer will be missed.
    In my opinion, Beyer speed figures are a valuable tool in the handicapping process. But just one of several tools to be used in the process. Just as a hammer is a useful tool if you are building a house, there are several other tools you will need as well.

  • gus stewart

    Never met him, but remember his ability to anger many with his opinions.thats good for keeping fans involved. I always acknowledge someone who worked that many years in one profession. His writing was entertaining. So the negative the beyers numbers, and as many who have followed racing on East coast, his inability to understand west coast racing was equal or better then east coast racing for many years now. My joke for years was as many horseplayers that claim to win,, he would be stooping to pick up tickets to find a winner if drf didnt employee him. I did ok 15 years ago, but for me, meds and other things have made it almost impossible. Hope he enjoys his retirement

  • California Flash

    Been following him his whole career. The one thing you can say that everyone can agree.He puts his money where his mouth is.

  • Peter Scarnati

    The official retirement of Mr. Beyer is truly the end of an era. Quite simply, given the paucity of coverage racing receives these days, there will NEVER be another one like him. Sure, the internet is littered with bloggers and commentators, but it’s not the same. Mr. Beyer had a captive audience when racing still had an audience to be captured. Such has not been the case for years.
    Sure, one can muse on the significance (or lack thereof) about his Speed Figures, but in my opinion his most important contribution to the game was his advocating, reporting and relating the triumphs and pitfalls of handicapping and betting on horse racing. THAT is what will be missed the most.
    Horse racing ONLY survives because it is a gambling outlet. If there are no gamblers, there is no “game.” Mr. Beyer knows full well that it simply is no more complicated than that.

  • we’re watching

    Fantastic article on a very interesting man. I should not have been surprised on one Sunday morning as he walked by me in the old Laurel sports palace. I said, gosh there goes Andy. I was in awe.

    His writing speaks for itself and what a great one he was and is should he write the single article here or there as I hope he does.

    He was one of the first if the first to write about the cheaters i the game, while other racing papers and highly rated broadcasters simply ignore it as they cash in on these bums.

    We will miss him in racing but especially in Maryland racing.

    Right on Andy Beyer!

  • Great article John. Andy is a legend and one of the most influential horseplayers and writers of our lifetime.

  • kuzdal

    Although I’ve only been lucky enough to chat with Mr.Beyer once, I would always look forward to August. You couldn’t help but run into him at Saratoga. And, in stark contrast to the “horse body language” experts today, Andy Beyer’s passion was every bit as great as his handicapping.

    Mr. Beyer was a joy to listen to, at least for me. A pioneer we won’t find again.

  • victor stauffer

    Zenyatta was a phony? How can anything Andy says have any credibility if he’s capable of making such a laughable statement?

    • Whynotwest

      A little bias are we Vic?

      • tony a


        • victor stauffer

          Very doesn’t do it justice. I’m more comfortable with Extremely, Totally, Unwaveringly, Obsessively, Completely and utterly biased. And dam proud of it. Anybody who thinks Queenie was a phony is a buffoon who’s never truly watched a horse race and should find much easier targets to pick on.

          • tony a

            So to be honest I didn’t like her that day and bet Blame and believe she was never going by but she did change my opinion of her that day. That’s why we put our money up.

          • GeoffS

            When horse racing wonders why it loses relevance, I think of folks like Beyer who seem oddly conflicted. While the average fan has never read a word he’s written, the attitude of belittling of any horse’s talent, even if merely in the name of silly gambling, turns many off. To have that attitude with a legend who saved the sport at arguably it’s lowest point, reflected poorly on Beyer or those who can’t at the very least preface their doubts about a horse with some semblance of admiration. Horse racing desperately misses Zenyatta. Very few will miss Beyer.

    • mikec

      Think he meant Z was NOT that fast speed or performance figure wise, she was hardly a phony

    • William Willer

      I concur. Further, once she got her footing at Churchill, after spotting a star studded cast a gigantic head start, she almost came back and won the darn thing. That was dirt, not synthetic. Hence, the “only a synthetic surface runner” holds no sway” in my book.

      • victor stauffer

        She twice won the Apple Blossom on dirt at Oaklawn Park. Sherrifs was always adamant that she hated synthetics, especially Del Mar. So perhaps the case could be made she would have been much better on dirt. Thereby making Andy’s statement even further out there.

    • Cmon; Vic, seriously don’t be so stupid. You are saying NOTHING Andy has ever said has credibility because of one horse? If that is what you are saying, it’s not Andy that is a buffoon.

      • victor stauffer

        Ok. I’ll re-think my position and consider others. Then if I disagree I’ll call them STUPID on a public forum.

        • Don’t you just think he deserves just a little more respect? Here is a guy that has been great for horseplayers and very influential to the game (and I am talking beyond his speed figures) for decades and we see life long losers at the track taking pot shots at him. Seen it for years. It’s pathetic and embarrassing.

          • victor stauffer

            I respect Andy Beyer.

          • victor stauffer

            What I don’t respect is people who call other people with a differing opinion STUPID.

          • Haha…Guess I should have used “buffoon” like you did? Having an opinion and showing disrespect are two entirely different things last time I checked, but this is a different world we seem to live in nowadays. Why I rarely ever comment in cesspools like what this has become.

          • victor stauffer

            Your choice whatever you think is appropriate. Here’s an even better idea. Go pester someone else.

  • cgriff

    139 for Secretariat’s Belmont. That was – to me – Beyer’s great revelation to the sport. An insurmountable standard. Thanks for the numbers and the ride, Andy.

  • Bob Reeves

    One of the many calls I received as President of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group was from Andy. He understands the economics of the sport and was very supportive of the position of the horsemen. Andy, enjoy your retirement.

  • Andrea J Bonney

    What a wonderful article- I live in the DC area and read the Washington Post- and always looked forward to Andy’s articles. And I remember when Rachel Alexandra lost her last race- and he wrote she’d done it all- and she wasn’t a machine. Happy retirement to him.

  • WonderAgain

    “With its combination of human intelligence, animal behavior and just enough larceny to add a certain piquancy racing is as big as life itself.” Enjoyed very much the article and Andy’s writing.

  • Charlie Underbite

    Fantastic article and Beyer certainly deserves so much credit for what he’s done for the handicapping industry. However, when he picked against American Pharoah in every single leg of the 2015 Triple Crown races, it was clear that his time had passed. That doesn’t diminish his career one bit, though.

    • Michael Stapler

      I understand why he picked against AP. Not in the Derby so much, but there was logical reasoning if you understand Beyer Figs and how to use them. I made a huge score beating AP with Keen Ice because of Beyer figs,
      What would you rather have the 3 TC prices or the Keen ice play?

      • Charlie Underbite

        I’d rather you shut your trap and not respond to me.

        • Michael Stapler

          What’s the matter. Your little 1/2 shot LOSE. LOL.

  • BarryMeadow

    Andy Beyer is the most important horse racing writer in history. Period.

    His passion for the game, creativity in developing his figures, and stubborn advocacy for gamblers–then, and now, rare for people writing about the game–have made him an icon. His Picking Winners was one of the most entertaining books on gambling ever written, and his later books and articles stamp him as one of a kind–a terrific writer not afraid to state a controversial opinion, and a man who has cared deeply about this sport throughout his life.

  • Drew Mollica

    It has been a real honor to a friend of Andy’s. He is not only brilliant but brutally honest and a great and I mean great friend to racing. While we do not always agree on the “policy” of racing we do agree that racing is the greatest game played outdoors and his input has made it better. no frills no bs kinda guy!! Great piece on a reat guy! All the best my friend!!

  • Michael Stapler

    I have read the comments below and have come to the conclusion that most all of the comments come from people who have NO CLUE how to use the Beyer figs.
    Let’s just say that if you are looking at the numbers as a FINAL FIG as to how fast a horse runs, you are using them wrong.
    Beyer figs are the most important part of my handicapping process and I handicap for a living. But to think a 95 is indeed a 95 is WRONG. There is a difference as to how these numbers are generated and as usual, he common handicapper is taking the shortcut to the final analysis.

    • Charlie Underbite

      Why don’t you explain that?

      • Michael Stapler

        I did….below. Been making a living on horses for a long long time now.

        • Fallow1

          I’ve noticed the price on winners dropping dramatically ever since you revealed the secret to beating the game.

          Maybe you should delete the post so the the game isn’t reduced to 2.10 winners

  • Al Milano

    It was in the late 1960’s on a winter night that I trundled onto a Washington DC bus headed out to Charles Town Race Track….clearly a demented horse player if there ever was one. I sat in the next to last available seat and grimaced when the last guy got on, knowing he would be sitting next to me, killing my leg room.

    This guy was pretty shopworn too and I thought “why me?”

    He took the seat and started talking. Never stopped talking on the entire trip. Made me crazy with his theories and his picks. All I wanted to do was study the form. Once we got to the track we parted ways and I didn’t see him until the night was over, boarding the bus again. I had had a so so night, losing a little, but this guy was all celebratory. He hit a bunch of races, a bunch of what passed for exotic bets in those days.

    And naturally he sat right next to me again and told me all about speed at the track. It was Andy Beyer of course and I always smiled about my only meeting with him. The guy is a lot of fun and a really, really good horse player. The pleasure I take in thinking about him today is the fact that he flubs the Derby every year and I’ve made a lot betting it, most years.

    Congratulations Andy!!!

    • kyle

      Great story, Al.

  • Jon Luman

    Amazing…. 40 years later, there are millions less taking a seat at horse racing, the percentage is still 95% losers, and the average north American payout for a winner is closer to 5-1, instead of less than the 4-1 of 1970. I wonder if horse racing’s bettors can recover from the influence.

  • Steven Hill

    Andy Beyer one of the Great Horse Racing Writers…America would have benefited by syndication of his column. “I felt when I had opinions, I had confidence in them,” I like that! Not so sure about his opinion of Zenyatta, it’s a bit harsh.
    Here’s my only Bone to pick and it not his fault…Beyer Speed Figures, of course, are now an industry standard due to Steven Crist and The Daily Racing Form. Crist’s distaste for Jerry Brown and I don’t know what issue he has with Ragosin “the sheets” lead him to choose the more Vanilla Beyer Speed Figures. I assume all Serious Horse Players feel the additional factors of runup to the start, wind, and Ground Loss factored into the Final “Number” is far more accurate.
    Sorry Andy…Love You
    Steve Hill


    Maybe Andy will have time to brush and fix his crooked teeth now and get away from some of his degenerate habits like screaming obscenities three or four times a day. Why would that be okay at Laurel, Pimlico and Rosecroft but not at Denny’s?

    • Fallow1

      Only 3 or 4. He’s slowed down

  • Charlie Underbite

    Ok, explain how you use the pace figures. You. Michael Stapler.

  • DanM

    Did he get back any of the $20K he lost in his ADW account when Hinsdale went belly up ?

    That was 2008. At the time, I thought if Andrew Beyer could get fleeced, what hope is there for the rest of us.

  • Atticus1897

    Great piece by John Scheinman. Captures Andy in all his complex glory. Andy’s major appeal to me was his love for the score, his writing style and his willingness to come out with a strong opinion. Perhaps it is fitting he did not fare well in the Derby over the years. It is a unique race that requires so much more than speed handicapping and Andy emphasized speed, sometimes to a fault. He knew what he was good at and he stuck with it. Dominate speed is still the greatest single handicapping factor in most dirt races and Andy was a master at identifying it.

    His speed figures are arguably at their most powerful in an early meet open claimer contest going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Is the shipper as fast as the local speedball? Did someone have this race over a barrel? He knew how to answer these questions as as well as anyone. He did it with flair and a love for “solving the puzzle” that any handicapper should admire. Like all revolutionaries, he was less exciting residing inside the castle than he was when he was plotting its demise. Regardless, many of us fell in love with this sport, in part, by reading some Beyer and imagining a big score. I know his early books had a huge impact on me. This track hound appreciates your contributions to the sport and the great handicapping riddle we all find so fascinating. Keep writing and doing the occasional seminar. The sport is better off with you in it.

    Thanks Andy (and John for the beautiful piece).

  • David Worley

    Despite being an avid PR reader, I missed this article the first time (must have been buried at work). Thanks for the podcast because it alerted me to come back and read this piece, which was fantastic.

  • brikshoe

    I had been an admirer of Andy’s since Picking Winners and finally met him at Churchill Downs in April 1994 when Andy signed Beyer on Speed for me. Surprisingly, I do not always agree with his opinions on a particular race, but I damn sure respect and consider it.

  • kenzostar

    Andy is legend, way ahead of his time…..speaking figures are the most sensible tool in all of racing

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