I was reading a story in the Daily Racing Form by Andy Beyer about a gentleman in Nevada diagnosed with pancreatic cancer trying to beat the odds and live long enough to make it until the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Reading the story reminded me of an episode I had with Beyer in college back in the mid-1980’s.
I was a senior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. My best friend, Paul Mooney, and I would make trips to play the races throughout New England when we had the opportunity. Back in the 80’s there was a dearth of handicapping information out there so you grabbed what you could find and latched onto it. For harness racing at Lewiston and Scarborough it was Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Harness Racing while for Thoroughbreds it was Beyer’s Picking Winners.
I had just come off of spending a year in Washington, DC spending my “year abroad” at George Washington University and Beyer’s column in the Washington Post was must reading. While he covered racing from a national perspective he also covered the Laurel/Pimlico scene in great detail. There were columns on track biases, equine stars and trainers, owners and jockeys. I couldn’t get enough Andy Beyer and I wrote one of only two pieces of fan mail I ever wrote in my life (the other was to Mel Blanc when I was in high school – quite the combo, huh?).
In my letter to Beyer I told him how much I enjoyed his work in the paper as well as paperback. I thought that the possibility of following horses every day was my idea of heaven and asked him: how do I get to be you when I grow up?
Beyer’s answer came back hammered out on a manual typewriter and hand signed: “You don’t want this gig.” Or something to that effect. I don’t have the response anymore, lost over time in my moves around the country and the world, but I will always remember the advice he gave me: get a real job and follow the horses in my spare time. He said that betting horses and writing about them wasn’t easy and that it didn’t pay particularly well, unless you got lucky.
I followed that advice. I graduated from college, attended graduate school at Maryland (and Pimlico & Laurel) and had a series of “real jobs” until getting laid off this past December. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a freelance job for the summer covering Canterbury Park for the same Daily Racing Form that Beyer calls home. His advice is still spot on. The gig is a lot of fun but I won’t get rich doing it. However while I’m looking for a “real job” I am living the dream and – technically speaking only – working with my hero while I’m doing it.
I have never met Andy Beyer and the odds are pretty good that I never will. I tried hard to follow his advice though the years yet when all was said and done, at least for now anyway, I ended up under the same masthead.
I promise, Andy, I AM looking for a “real job”…unless I get lucky!