There was (is) some twitter chatter this morning about Beyer figures. As we all know, their creator, Andy Beyer used them in the 1970's to try and standardize racetimes in a number, to make it easier for him to see who was fastest on a given day, at a given track. These numbers, like most, have a lower win percentage than favorites, but had a very strong ROI.
Over the years, as more and more people used them, or created their own, their handicapping predictability does not change, but their value gets eroded. 35 or so years later, pure speed figures are what they are.
In handicapping, Beyer figures when used by Andy and a few other sharpies was the holy grail. They're still one of the most sharp, interesting and formidable items to happen in handicapping and will forever be.
That got me thinking to back when I was a kid. In harness racing we could not use Beyers or track variants because there really wasn't many. But we could make our own 'figures' in some instances.
I had just finished writing an exam; in I think Modern Symbolic
Logic, at the downtown campus at the University of Toronto. I was 18. I
had $1.50 in my pocket – streetcar fare. I sped to the streetcar stop and
finally made it home.
I had to find some way to raise some capital
and get to the track. I found a good bet in the Greenwood third race and since I was broke, I needed to make some sort of score.
My roommates were not home so they were no help. I'd scrounged up some change I found on the floor of my room.
Then I found some soda bottles, then the coup de grace, a few empty
cases of beer. The beer store was down the road about a half a block, and I was walking
distance to Greenwood. After cashing those in I had enough to pay admission, split a
program with a buddy (who was also broke and a student), and go to town
with $11 worth of bets on my horse.
The horse was a mare. I think she was by Armbro Splurge, and she had
recently qualified in fast time at a new track that opened up in Sarnia,
Ontario. But there was something funny about this brand new track - it was dreadfully slow. I swore that horses there were turning
for home in a pile of molasses carting a 300 pound driver, pulling
several bowling balls made of iron. I noticed that once before at a B
track with a Sarnia shipper who won at a bomb price, and I was hoping
to capitalize on that knowledge.
Betting is pretty simple. If you know something other people don't you have a "hidden positive", and hidden positives can make you big money. I
felt this one could be one of those. At least I was hoping so.
Race 3 was a tri race (not all races were tri's in the late 1980's), so of course I had to try and bet one of
those. Plus, some win money was a good thought. My plan was set.
odds board opened and this little filly shipper from near Detroit was 30-1. I played a $1 triactor key
for $6 and bet $2 to win and $3 to place. My bankroll was summarily shot.
The race went off and she got off fifth or sixth, pulled and tipped
off cover at the head of the lane. I was pretty confident because she looked super off cover and I began
looking for my horses to fill triactor slots, which any gambler will
tell you is a big mistake. Well not this time as the gods were with me.
Maybe they felt sorry for me since I was so broke.
She stormed home and
crossed the wire in first, by two lengths, and the tri was filled. I had
The prices flashed up: $830 or $840 for the triple and $44 for the win price.
It was exhilaration.
This was the way it was back then with betting. The Internet today
would never have let that happen. Word would have gotten out about this
nice filly. Word would have spread about the depth of the Sarnia track. I
bet that mare today would have paid less than $10.
This is a very difficult game. Sometimes you can find a hidden
positive or obscure angle, but it doesn't happen very often. In the
days of Pittsburgh Phil (and he alludes to this in his classic book) you
could be a railbird, pick your spots, watch races and chart them (there
were not even past performances back then), and make a pile of money.
Sometimes I long for those days, being the fan that I am.
Regardless, for one day – one brief moment- I felt like I was there, back in 1900, making a score with Phil.
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