Harvard's Connection to Horse Racing

Published by Robert S Samuels on May 07, 2011 at 2:29AM

The sports world will turn its attention later this afternoon to the most exciting two minutes in sports: The Kentucky Derby. Held annually on the first Saturday in May, the event is perhaps the most iconic in all of horse racing.

No doubt two former Harvard students will be watching the results very closely: Andrew Beyer and Steven Crist ’78. After all, the two have been working in horse racing for the past 30 years and are giants in the industry.

Beyer, a former Crimson sports editor, came to Harvard with some experience in horse racing. But when he discovered the horse racing tracks in the area, Beyer was hooked.

It was this love of horse racing that caused Beyer not to graduate.

"My final examination in Chaucer [in the Spring of 1966] was scheduled on the same day that Kauai King would be trying to win the Triple Crown at Belmont Park,” Beyer told The Harvard Crimson in 1975. “I knew nothing about the Canterbury Tales, but I did know something about Amberoid in the Belmont Stakes. So I went to the track."

It turned out Beyer knew what he was doing. Amberoid pulled off the upset.

Since then, Beyer has become, according to many, “the best—and most important—handicapper in America.” After making the key discovery that horses’ times mattered much more than previously thought, he had a significant edge over the rest of the bettors. However, he later divulged his methods in a series of watershed books, which eventually led to the creation of a new statistic, the Beyer Speed Figure, which has become the cornerstone for much of betting in horse racing.

Currently, Beyer writes for both the Washington Post and the Daily Racing Form, a daily publication that covers horse racing and releases the horses’ past performances. Its publisher is also a former Harvard student, though unlike Beyer, Crist ’78 actually graduated.

While at Harvard, Crist went to the dog track at Wonderland and immediately fell in love with the sport.

“I felt right at home the first night,” he told the Harvard Magazine last year. Pretty soon, he began to focus on horse racing and has been deeply involved ever since.

From 1981 to 1990, Crist was the horse racing columnist for the New York Times. After holding a number of other jobs in the industry, Crist became the CEO of the Daily Racing Form in 1998. Though he no longer serves in that capacity, Crist remains quite involved in the paper.

In the meantime, Crist has written a number of books, including “Exotic Betting” and “Betting on Myself: Adventures of a Horse Player and Publisher.”

Magic of Numbers: Playoff Preview

Published by Catherine E. Coppinger on May 06, 2011 at 3:11AM

Each Thursday, The Crimson will compile a series of unique statistics about Harvard's sports scene. Welcome to the Magic of Numbers—without the problem sets. We'll do the math for you.

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Lacrosse Earns Nine All-Ivy Nods

Published by Emily Rutter on May 05, 2011 at 3:11AM

It has been a good few weeks for Harvard lacrosse.

Both women’s and men’s lacrosse teams earned the third seed in the Ivy League tournament for this weekend, and this week, nine Crimson players were recognized with All-Ivy honors.

The league’s head coaches met to decide who would earn first-, second-, and honorable mention accolades. The men’s team earned four selections, while the women’s squad boasted five picks.

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Around the Water Cooler

Published by Robert S Samuels on May 04, 2011 at 11:05PM

As Harvard students prepare for final tests, so too do Ivy League sports teams. After last weekend’s action, we finally know the playoff pictures in baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. The playoff action for all four sports begins this weekend, and by this time next week, we’ll have a whole new set of Ivy League champs. So come on, put down those books, as we take a trip through the Ivies in this week’s edition of Around the Water Cooler.

The Harvard baseball team’s season began poorly.  This weekend, it ended poorly as well, as Dartmouth easily swept the Crimson in a four-game series. While Harvard managed to keep it close in the final game of the weekend, the Crimson couldn’t get anything going earlier in the series. In the first three contests, Harvard combined for two run, while the Big Green managed to score 13 times.

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Captain Collin Zych Looking to Sign as Undrafted Free Agent

Published by E. Benjamin Samuels on May 04, 2011 at 2:58AM

Captain Collin Zych was not among the 254 players selected in last week’s NFL draft, but the safety still has a shot at making it to the pros

Zych had visits with a number of professional teams, and undrafted players are often signed after the amateur selections to help fill in remaining voids in the roster. Because of the current lockout, the situation becomes more complicated, but he still stands a chance of making it to the NFL as an undrafted signing.

Only one Ivy Leaguer was drafted this year. The Kansas City Chiefs selected Yale’s Shane Bannon, a fullback for the Bulldogs, in the seventh round, with the 223rd overall pick. Bannon is the first Eli to get drafted in seven years.

Per the restrictions of the labor struggles in the NFL, no one can sign contracts, a limitation that affects both drafted and non-drafted prospects.

Zych, the captain of last year’s football team, was first team All-Ivy and Academic All-Ivy. His 79 tackles were tied for best on the team with senior linebacker Nick Hasselberg.

Though Harvard has a number of alumni currently in the NFL, no member of the Crimson squad has been drafted since 2005. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick—likely the most famous Harvard graduate in the NFL—was selected with the 250th overall pick by the St. Louis Rams. He started most of last season for the Buffalo Bills.