Andy Beyer's Betting System: Try Him Out on the Derby

Andrew Beyer is a tough man to distract when he’s reading the Daily Racing Form. For him, plotting and playing the horses rank among the world’s great delights. Beyer, 31, makes his living as track columnist for the Washington Star. He also recently wrote an acclaimed book, Picking Winners, a sensible and cautious guide to success at the pari-mutuel window. His approach is not so much innovative as intensive, urging the bettor to equip himself with all sorts of information—past performances, layoffs between starts, post position, style of running, weather, to name a few.

Ever since he was 12 years old, when his parents took him to Randall Park in Cleveland, Andy has been, as he puts it, “a track degenerate.” Even a hitch at Harvard failed to sidetrack him, much to his parents’ dismay. Instead of studying, Beyer found himself playing poker from dusk to dawn, catching a few hours of sleep, then blowing his poker winnings at the track. “It was a really fanatic crew on that bus to the track,” Andy remembers. “Guys would offer to sell you their belts so they could get into the grandstand. But gambling really is an egalitarian thing—no matter how down-and-out you were, if you had $2 for that last bet and 20¢ to get back to Harvard Square, you felt all right.”

At the end of his senior year, a $2 bet he wanted to place on Amberoid in the Belmont Stakes took precedence over a final examination in Chaucer. “I didn’t know a thing about Chaucer, but I did know that Amberoid was a sure winner that day. I was right and won $13. Counting the tuition I blew, it brought my losses for the day to a mere $11,989.”

Even without a degree, Andy landed a sportswriting job on the Boston Globe. In quick succession he moved to the Washington Post, then the Washington Daily News and finally the Star. “I started writing columns that I knew would be helpful to fledgling horseplayers,” he says. “There really is no place else to learn the horses.”

Beyer rarely shows his face around the paper’s newsroom. Instead he prefers to study his records and the Racing Form, the horseplayer’s scripture, in the privacy of his monastically furnished townhouse in Georgetown. He whiles away afternoons in pure pleasure at the track.

Although Andy says he won $10,000 on the horses last year, he cautions that all gamblers must expect long losing streaks. “After I finished the book, I picked 47 losers in a row at Saratoga—I just slunk out of town on a Trailways bus. When you’ve got a win streak going, you’ve really got to milk it—when you start losing, pull out quickly.”

Andy genially admits his most embarrassing setback came in the 1973 Kentucky Derby: “I wrote that Secretariat would not win.” Not only did Secretariat do so, but he went on to take the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1948. Undeterred, Beyer is again bypassing the heavy favorite, Foolish Pleasure, in the 101st running of the Derby this week. Instead, he picks:

1. Avatar

2. Master Derby

3. Prince Thou Art

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