Recently I decided to cull the collection of racing books and booklets I have scattered around my home, one of the reasons being that I was beginning to need training for a jumping career to hop over them at times.

In the process I came across two classic books, written by the doyen of American horse racing, Andrew Beyer, titled Picking Winners: A Horseplayer’s Guide. (1975) and My \$50,000 Year At The Races (1978), that I hadn’t flicked through for a while.

Over the years I’ve read sections of each book several times and I thought I’d share some of the sections I found most stimulating in my quest towards achieving even a modicum of racetrack success.

My fondness for re-reading his books stems from having actually met the man on November 13, 1988 for an hour of racetrack talk. Andy had been kind enough to return my phone call after I’d tracked him down to his hotel.

The following day I met him at the Ballarat Cup meeting and found him to be a most gracious person and quite prepared to talk to someone like myself who to him would have been just another punter.

In his early days on the punt he stumbled along the many blind alleys most serious punters take by testing any number of theories on paper and then applying the acid test with real cash. Although, in the 1950s, ?some punters had attempted to calculate if running 1200m in 1.11 at one track was the same as running the same time at another or how could you transfer a 1200m time relative to a forthcoming 1400m race, no-one had produced a reliable model.

Beyer laboriously sifted his way through thousands of formguides and eventually constructed ?reliable speed charts enabling him to calculate the speed figures for each track and eventually “1200m in 1.13 equals 1400m in 1.26.2” was “my E=MC².”

Beyer says: “For example, if a horse wins a \$10,000 claiming race and moves up to \$20,000 nobody would touch him. There were three guys out of a thousand that knew he was actually the fastest horse. It was like having the Rosetta Stone. I had hit on the truth of the game. I had a way to measure every horse.”

Thus began ?the success of the punter known as Andrew Beyer. There have been other successful punters, so what makes him special? ?What makes him stand out is the inner Andrew Beyer: a man possessed with the punt as a love affair rather than a grinding, profit making business venture.

Perhaps one of the best ways to describe Beyer is to turn to Chapter 1 of Picking Winners where the title of the chapter immediately gives you an insight into his personality. The chapter is called “The joy of handicapping” and some of the quotes I underlined years ago are still foremost in my mind all these years later.

The first sentences certainly hit home to all serious punters when he states, “From time to time, every confirmed horseplayer is racked by doubts about what he is doing with his life. He is playing the toughest game in the world, one that demands a passionate, all-consuming dedication from anyone who seriously wants to be a winner. Even a winner will necessarily experience more frustrations than triumphs, and when the frustrations come in rapid succession he may wonder if the struggle is worth it.”

Now, re-read those sentences: there cannot be truer utterances about horse racing. Only recently I broke a run of losers in Perth where I picked a miserable four winners in four meetings and each winning price was short. The word “frustration” was known in capital letters to yours truly in that period of time as I watched my profits dwindle.
As I write this the tide has turned but the journey back will need to be a patient one.

Further on Beyer wondered, “Can the races be beaten consistently? And even if the game can ultimately be beaten, is it worth spending years of effort to reach a goal that most members of society would view as a trivial achievement?”

Indeed, how many serious punters have pondered this conundrum? How many have had to defend themselves and their passion when it publicly became known they were punters? How many have had to explain that it is not always the dollar that is the driving force but more the chase to prove that society is not right when it declares all gamblers die broke.

The drive behind Andy Beyer was clear in his early childhood when his first gambling experience at the age of five netted him a jackpot on a slot machine. At age 12 he persuaded his parents to take him to a racetrack where ?“I caught my first glimpse of that wonderful, esoteric set of statistics known as the Daily Racing Form” and ?now his “fondest memory” is ?“sitting in my Physics class when a messenger came into the room and handed the Student Council President a note reading ‘Your parlay at Aqueduct paid \$74’. My teacher was not impressed.”

The path for Andrew Beyer was set in concrete as displayed by his own words: ?“I was seduced by horse race betting because it offers more mental challenge and stimulation than any subject in the formal academic world. Few people ever master it.”

The words from Beyer quoted above, and what I am about to quote, certainly explains how I feel about the punt. Andrew puts his case forward in defence of the punt when he declares: “The cerebral stimulation of handicapping, and the ego gratification that comes from doing it well, are only part of the attraction of playing the horses.”

And he reiterates society’s feelings with: “Most solid citizens think gamblers are in the same psychological league as dope fiends and child molesters, but they don’t understand what they are missing.”

He also mentions a discussion he had with a friend who devoted his day to the punt but who didn’t have much money but every day was seen as a new challenge, a new joy.

The friend said, “I am thankful that God gave me the capacity to enjoy.” As Andrew says “The capacity to enjoy: so few people have it. Most citizens live lives of such routine and drudgery and are so concerned about security that they cannot imagine how delicious uncertainty is.”

The next time someone asks YOU about the punt you should be able to draw on Andrew Beyer’s comments in your defence! Let’s face it – are we punters any more passionate than a football supporter or golfer, just to name two, ?who seek gratification each week but also have to weather frustration?

The punt can be summed up when Andrew says: “The mental attitude with which a man approaches gambling can determine whether he will succeed or fail. Serious students of handicapping are driven by the desire to learn so that someday they will have the skills to win consistently”.

In a recent quote he says that the worst thing you can do in betting horses is to be thrown off kilter by emotional highs and lows. You must totally erase close losses and go on. Near misses are an inescapable part of the game.

So how has Andrew Beyer shown the world he is a successful punter? Certainly by writing books (a quick Google search on “Andrew Beyer books” will find them all) and a regular column in the Washington Post (www.washingpost.com), as well as striking several huge dividends he has for many years proven he is a winner.

As far back as 1975 he espoused the concept of sharing when he said: “Good horseplayers learn from each other . . . serious bettors like to talk, argue over theories and exchange ideas with people who share their obsession.”

I can assure you there are no truer words spoken. The Internet abounds with Punters’ Forums and you, the punters, have access to some of the most brilliant punting minds around IF you are prepared to share your findings. Ten years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting with such like minded punters via a punters forum and now have several lifelong friends (EJ, Benny B, Helen and Rudy, in particular) with whom I have shared so much laughter, friendship and knowledge that words cannot describe my feelings about them.

It goes without saying the pages of Practical Punting Monthly (PPM) have had a myriad of articles over the years designed to help you with the punt where serious punters have presented you with their ideas. Learn from them and you too can be a serious contender in the racing game.