Two of the great names in American and world racing are Barry Meadow and Andy Beyer.

Meadow is regarded as the No. 1 guru of handicappers, and Beyer is the man who developed the successful Beyer Speed Ratings, now used by most US racing fans. This is an edited article on Beyer from Barry's Racing Monthly newsletter.

Yes, the man loves to gamble. He is 60 years old, happily married, has a great job and lives in a lovely home. Yet the truth is that Beyer is at his most content when buried deep in a stack of results charts, looking for a horse that raced well despite going five wide against a speed bias and knowing that this little piece of knowledge may someday mean one thing: Score time!

Andy Beyer likes scores. Hey, who doesn't? He's made some, too. Twice he's hit the double triple (twin trifecta) for more than $100,000.

There is zero chance that Beyer, no matter how much money he earns outside of gambling (from his Beyer Ratings royalties from the Daily Racing Form and from his Washington Post column), will quit gambling.

You get the feeling the man will be on his deathbed and there will be a TV in the corner of the hospital room, and the races will be on, and Beyer will somehow muster the strength to scream epithets at the two-inch jockeys on the screen.

"I've never lost my passion for the game," Beyer says. "My ego is still invested and if I'm having a losing season I'm still a completely worthless human being."

This enthusiasm, bordering on fanaticism, is probably what makes Andy Beyer the best-known  handicapper on the planet.

Despite his wealth and fame, Beyer is still one of the guys, a perfect fit in a crowded grandstand while woefully out of place in a turf club directors' meeting.

It's now become the stuff of legend, though Beyer swears it's true, that he knew his college career was over when he blew off a Chaucer exam to go to Belmont races.

Beyer was one of those bright kids who was always interested in puzzles and games. He played poker, chess and bridge. Racing seemed a puzzle whose riddles could never be fully solved. And it had gambling, too.

Thus was America's leading handicapper drawn to horse racing. Forget the pageantry and the beauty of the horses.

This was a game, a never quite scrutable game that in Beyer's youth would routinely attract tens of thousands of players on a typical Saturday.

And if you could solve at least some of that puzzle, you could make money, too.

It took him years to have a winning year. Finally, in 1970, he did. Sure, it was only $99.60 but Andy Beyer beat the races. Now it was time to make some REAL money.

Over the next few years, while working as a sports writer for Washington newspapers, Beyer continued to beat the races. He wrote a well-received book, Picking Winners, but he never made even five figures in his best gambling year.

And then came 1977. Beyer had a job as a horse-racing columnist for the Washington Star, and the sympathetic news editor encouraged him to go to whatever tracks he wanted, whenever he wanted.

He decided that this would be his year, and he sat down and assessed his skills. He was no body-language expert or pace analyst. He knew trainers, he understood track biases and he had a gift for the tedium of figure-crafting.

It was this latter area where he would make the great breakthrough that would eventually lead to his Beyer Speed Ratings.

Oh, there had been plenty written about speed figures, but there was virtually no way, then, to compare times from one track to another.

For decades, timing was relatively unreliable, so it wasn't all that easy to get very accurate times. There were no video replays, and chart callers often made errors. What was the point of calculating times when those times may have been no good, anyway?

Everybody was a class handicapper. "There was a mass lunacy," Beyer says now. "The idea that time didn't matter had a very strong hold on the public, and it was bizarre.

"Maybe it might have been true before my era when the times weren’t very accurate but when I came along there was no reason to distrust the clocking."

So for Beyer it became a matter of comparing one distance with another and one track to another. While computers today can perform such jobs in seconds, in those early days it was just Beyer and a stack of formguides.

But the work, the drudgery of it, paid off. Beyer now had a way of quantifying each horse's performance, and it was interchangeable from track to track and distance to distance.

What's more, nobody else had the numbers. Not that they worked all the time but they worked often enough that Beyer was able to write a book, My $50,000 Year At The Races, and it wasn't a negative number. Through his research, Beyer learned that some of the main principles of handicapping were demonstrably false.

The days when Beyer could find the longshots that everyone else missed are, sadly, long gone.

Everybody's got a computer and computers can whip out reports just about as fast as you can think of something to ask them. Goodbye 10/1 overlay, hello 2/1 underlay.

To some extent, Beyer regrets allowing his figures to be published.

The fact that everybody has the numbers he and his staff worked so hard to craft leaves him with a tinge of regret.

"Maybe I should have devoted every waking hour to gambling and seized that edge for the time I had it, but the figures have been a wonderful source of income for me," he says. "I've been well compensated."

Beyer's time these days is divided among his newspaper duties, overseeing the numbers, and gambling. He might write a detailed article about economic troubles at a racetrack one day and put $3000 through the tote windows the next.

Now that the Beyer figures have become common currency, he's had to change his gambling strategies.

"There's no value in playing the high numbers blindly, even if they were earned honestly," he says. "It's impossible to get edges with horses that have overwhelmingly superior speed figures.

"I use the figures as a starting point but I am always trying to add in my own analysis."

Despite some innovations offered by computer services, Beyer still does his handicapping with a Daily Racing Form and his own notes. Sometimes, he thinks, punters feel obligated to use some computer discovered factoid at the expense of solid handicapping.

Beyer still bets serious money. When he's at Gulfstream, one of his favourite tracks, he'll sometimes put $1000 into a race, generally betting in exactas and trifectas.

When he's playing other tracks, and watching them on TV, he might put only $200 into a race but, then again, he might be playing 20 races.

When he loses a close photo he can appear to an outsider to be a man who needs a good dose of meditation therapy.

Beyer says he actually has a pretty good handle on his emotions at the track.

"I think I handle my money and my emotions about as well as a punter can," he says. "If I get upset or rattled by a result, I'll be unaffected the next day. I can miss a Pick 6 by a nose that would have paid $50,000 and next day I'm back betting again."

* Barry Meadow's books, newsletter and advice can be obtained at his website at:

By Barry Meadow