Book Review: Beyer on SpeedNew Strategies for Racetrack Betting
By Adam Wiener, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
Andrew Beyer may be one of the greatest turf writers of all time, but his legacy will most likely be numbers, not words. “Beyer speed figures” revolutionized handicapping and appear in the Daily Racing Form—or every past performance of every horse in every race.
As a result, most people will assume Beyer on Speed: New Strategies for Racetrack Betting is just a book about speed handicapping. It certainly does an outstanding job of framing every aspect of handicapping and wagering, particularly exotics, with speed figures as the backdrop. However, this book also presents Beyer’s holistic view on handicapping. “On Speed” may simply be a clever turn of phrase.
“It is hard to measure a horse’s competitive spirit with mathematical precision,” Beyer warns. “Handicapping is an art—not merely a puzzle to be solved by applying the right formula.”
“Beyer On Speed” examines many schools of belief, including pace handicapping, “bounce” theories of the “Sheets,” and the abstract numbers of Sartin. Any method rooted in blind number evaluation is taken to task.
He argues that speed figures are different from number-based handicapping methods, just one of many tools in a handicapper’s arsenal. “Figs” are not a “system” guaranteeing success, but, rather, they are directional: They must be questioned and evaluated, and then used in conjunction with other, standard handicapping techniques.
With dozens of examples, he explains in detail how horses earn figures, thoroughly examining bias, pace, trips and more. Then, it gazes into the crystal ball, helping the reader answer the most important handicapping question: How will a horse run today?
Once the handicapping is done, Beyer explains his betting strategies for many of the more popular exotic wagers. Even if speed figures are not for you, understanding the psychology behind how a professional horseplayer constructs his tickets is very valuable.
Beyer is a gifted writer. Other than one chapter on mathematics (just like high school, I had a hard time paying attention here), “Beyer On Speed” never feels bogged down or complicated. Like his other books, it is chock full of fascinating stories of his handicapping and wagering successes and failures. You’ll get excited, too, when he describes his giddiness upon seeing a Las Vegas simulcast facility for the first time. Oh, the possibilities!
I have often given Picking Winners: A Horseplayer’s Guide, Beyer’s first book, as a gift to beginners. That rudimentary introduction to the sport does a nice job of explaining the basics, including speed. Whether or not “figs” resonated with a reader, “Beyer On Speed” is the logical next book. For speed devotees, it’s a bible.