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The Andycapper

If You Don't Know Who Andrew Beyer Is, You Probably Don't Bet on Horses
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

Everybody who knows anything about gambling knows this: you can't win betting the horses. Too big of a house takeout, too much "vig." No matter how sharp your handicapping, no matter how foolproof your system, the oppressive mathematics of the game (about a 20 percent disadvantage) eventually grind up even the wisest guy. Damon Runyon, who wagered on a pony or two in his time, put it this way: "All horse players die broke."

Almost all.

Andrew Beyer is not broke. Andrew Beyer is not well on his way to dying penniless and bitter, raving about the sure-thing nag who quit in the back stretch. Andrew Beyer, in fact, is quite comfortable and happy and financially secure.

Which, as horse players go, is saying something. It helps, of course, that Beyer is considered by many in the business to be the best--and most important--handicapper in America.

Ask Michael "Roxy" Roxborough, the man who sets the Vegas line (Cigar Aficionado, Summer 1995) and an avid horse player:

"When Andrew Beyer walks through the grandstand of anyracetrack in America, he's the most recognizable person in the crowd. He has more enthusiasm for betting on horses than anyone in the sport."

If you don't know who Andrew Beyer is, you probably don't bet on horses. If you do, you're probably aware that Beyer, 52, the author of four best-selling books on handicapping, is the syndicated horse racing columnist for The Washington Post, a position he's held since 1978. To those who regularly peruse the Daily Racing Form, the horse bettor's bible, his name is legendary: he is the eponymous creator of the revolutionary Beyer Speed Figures, possibly the most powerful tool in horse handicapping since the invention of the stopwatch.

Not long ago, Cigar Aficionado spent a day at the track with Beyer, getting an insider's view of how he computes his figures, how he picks the ponies and, ultimately, how he beats one of the toughest games in the world. In the course of analyzing, betting and, yes, agonizing over, a full card of races, Beyer reveals why he is one of the most interesting characters in the world of gambling.

When you arrive at Beyer's house in a woodsy, embassy-speckled neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., you become immediately aware that it is not the home of a degenerate gambler struggling to come up with enough spare change to bet the daily double. Beyer and his wife, Susan Vallon, an interior designer, live in an airy, modern place--"one of the 20 houses in Washington that isn't a colonial," Vallon jokes. Filled with tasteful furniture and beautiful art, there's only one painting in the house that has anything vaguely to do with horse racing, a Post-Impressionist blur of color and motion depicting a group of ponies charging for the wire.

Andy Beyer's home office is similarly devoid of tacky equine posters and portraits of Triple Crown winners on black velvet. Bookshelves filled with hundreds of old Racing Forms and a small library of handicapping tomes sit opposite a large desk containing all manners of computers and other electrical accoutrements. The only memento adorning Beyer's otherwise spare workplace is a framed horseshoe, worn by the legendary Secretariat when he won the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct in 1973.

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