Beyer is demonstrative, to put it mildly. For years, there was a hole in a wall of the press box at Gulfstream. It was called Beyer's Hole, because it had been created by his fist. When fortune smiles on him, he is likely to fall on his knees and declare for all to hear, "I am the king of the world!" The Beyer rule of handicapping etiquette is that a bettor may do this only when he has just won a sum equal to or exceeding 10% of his annual income.
So when Beyer's horse wins the fifth race of this day's Pick Six, he runs from his cubicle to the monitor, shouting, "We got a chance, baby! We got a——chance!" Crist, who is also alive, continues working on his word processor. He is writing a story on Kentucky Derby favorite Easy Goer, and his deadline is less than an hour away. He needs to concentrate on his prose, not the $180,000 he may win in the next 15 minutes.
The sports editors of the Times and Post—Joe Vecchione and George Solomon, respectively—have nearly identical things to say about their turf writers: entirely reliable about deadlines; the copy never needs help. Each editor also claims that his man is "the best in the business."
Beyer, however, is unimaginable in any other role. "I asked him once if he'd be interested in writing a general sports column," Solomon says, "and he looked at me like I'd asked him to write a five-part series on the Federal Reserve System." Crist is equally unmoved by any other role in sports journalism. "I have no interest in going into locker rooms and interviewing athletes," he says. "I just don't like human sports." Vecchione says he would not be surprised if, in five years, Crist was writing about something besides racing. "The job is his, as long as he wants it. But he's so talented and has so much range, I could see him doing just about anything." For now, Crist is satisfied. "I can't think of a better job," he says. "You get to go to races every day. And what could be better than that?"
On some of those days, you hit big, and this could be the day. At post time for the sixth Pick Six race, both Beyer and Crist are out on the balcony. Crist is serene. Beyer paces and, when he stops, grips the railing hard enough to turn his knuckles white, as though he were fighting an impulse to jump. He has the favorite.
By the time the horses are in the stretch it is clear that this will not be the day for either one. Crist shrugs as a long shot comes in. Beyer throws up his hands. The favorite loses by a length. After a moment or two, he trudges back inside to watch the replay and torture himself all over again. Crist goes back to his desk to finish his story.
After the last race Beyer drinks a beer with some of the other writers. He is reminded of another Pick Six, when he had won the first five races and had five of the seven horses in the last race. The two he had not bet were impossible dogs. Someone suggested that he take out some insurance by buying tickets on the two long shots.
"Insurance?" Beyer shouted indignantly. "Insurance? I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to box the five horses I've got." That exercise in hubris was vintage Beyer. When one of the long shots came in he missed a chance to win $100,000. Even when he reveals a bit of the excitement he must feel when everything he envisions beforehand actually happens on the racetrack, Crist does so in an extremely laconic fashion.
When an old friend bumped into him during that six-day Pick Six streak and asked how it was going, Crist confided, calmly and very quietly, "Just don't touch: I'm sizzling."
He and Beyer leave the Gulfstream press box separately. Beyer heads for a house he has rented. He will dine with his wife, Susan, then study tomorrow's card and go to bed early. "This is as intense as it ever gets for me," he says of the Florida racing season. "After a month of this, I'll need to back off for a while before things start picking up with the Triple Crown."