If You Don't Know Who Andrew Beyer Is, You Probably Don't Bet on Horses
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96
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By combining his newly minted speed ratings with his fresh perspective on track speed, the young columnist invented the Beyer Speed Figures.
"As crude as they were, the speed figures were a revelation," Beyer remembers, gazing happily at the Pimlico track below, watching the horses load into the starting gate for the first race. "Newton couldn't have been more excited. You've got to understand, class was still the big deal. For example, a horse wins a $10,000 claiming race and moves up to $20,000 and nobody would touch him. And according to my figures, this long shot sometimes was actually the fastest horse in the field. There were times when I'd be one of three guys out of a thousand that knew this. It was like having the Rosetta stone."
In those giddy days, Beyer not only made a handsome profit, but more important to the inveterate horse player, he understood. "I had hit on the core truth of the game. I had a way to measure every horse! Now, the rational decision would have been to forget my job, keep quiet about my discovery and bet as much as possible," Beyer admits. "But I wanted to be Yardley."
In 1975, Beyer wrote a book outlining the theory and practice behind his speed figures. "With a system so complex, I didn't think anyone would be particularly interested." His book, Picking Winners, received a rave review from a closet horse player at The New York Times; Sports Illustrated wrote that "a generation of Beyer disciples was born." He suddenly had the best-selling horse book of all time.
Beyer sees an interesting value in the second race at Pimlico and bets the three horse (Fuelonthefire) in an exacta box with the six horse. "The three is a legit four-to-one going off at nine-to-one," Beyer says. "And the six is the second best horse in this race." Per his prediction, the three runs a valiant race, finishing second to the favorite. The six, though, is never in contention. Beyer nods thoughtfully and continues his story.
Before 1987, when Beyer started selling his speed figures to the public, and especially before 1992, when the Daily Racing Form started publishing them, Beyer cashed tickets on a lot of 20- and 30-to-one shots. "Them were the days, as they say," Beyer jokes. "But I've never been an entrepreneur. I liked being a writer and a gambler." As the years passed and the Beyer Speed Figures became a widely accepted concept, their creator no longer felt like "the one guy at the track with a magic code."
Indeed, these days the Beyer Speed Figures have become an omnipresent factor in the horse game, so popular that, according to Roxy Roxborough, "The figures are not only used by handicappers but by trainers and owners as well. They've become a standard part of the industry."
Beyer admits that using his figures alone is no longer an adequate method for beating horse racing. Beyer's formerly proprietary information is already built into the odds, lowering the "price," often making certain horses overbet and overvalued. Ponies that once might have gone off at 25-to-one are being bet down to three-to-one. "I compensate for the increasing difficulty of finding good betting values," says Beyer. "Instead of merely looking at the number, the Figure, I look for other factors to stay ahead of the crowd, such as what kind of circumstances were in place to earn that number."
Even so, he admits, the game is becoming increasingly difficult to beat. "The track used to be the place to play a lucky number. Now there's slots and state lotteries and so forth. So the people who are left are a pretty sophisticated crowd. The margins have shrunk. Still," Beyer says, "with full-card simulcasting, you can still find five or six overlays a day. And this game still has one redeeming virtue: you can still make huge scores on relatively small investments."
To illustrate his point, Beyer bets a twin trifecta--picking first, second and third in two consecutive races--on Pimlico's third and fifth. He invests $250 on the number two horse (Chocolat Delight) boxed with the numbers one, three, five and six horses, giving him 84 possible winning combinations. "The two horse's last three races have been very good until his last one, where he was lousy. I'm willing to dismiss the results on account of mud that day." Beyer is particularly fond of twin trifecta bets. In 1990, at the Laurel track in Maryland, he hit the Double Triple for $195,000. A year later he hit it again for $134,000.
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