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Harvard's Connection to Horse Racing

By Robert S Samuels, Crimson Staff Writer

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.”

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