Updated on 07/22/2016 11:54PM

Steven Crist, advocate for horseplayer, retires

Robert Adam Mayer
Steven Crist transformed Daily Racing Form upon purchasing the publication with Alpine Capital in 1998.

Steven Crist, the longtime Daily Racing Form executive and columnist, announced his retirement Wednesday. Crist, who put together an investment group to buy DRF in 1998, served as the company’s chief executive until 2002 and most recently was its editor and publisher emeritus.

“I can’t think of a single individual who has contributed more to Daily Racing Form throughout its illustrious 123-year history than Steven Crist,” said John Hartig, DRF’s chairman and CEO. “Steve has been an outstanding steward of the DRF brand, an outspoken advocate of the horseplayer, and has brought innovations to racing and to our fans like no other. Over his 35-year career in racing, Steve’s relentless passion and his long-standing commitment to elevating the sport has earned him the highest respect of industry professionals and his colleagues alike. I am deeply appreciative of Steve’s numerous contributions and wish him continued good health and abundant success in playing the game into retirement.”

“Whether as a bettor, reporter, columnist, editor, publisher, author or racetrack executive, Steven Crist has been America’s voice of the horseplayer for more than 35 years," said Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "His contributions to Thoroughbred racing are immense and we hope that he remains an advocate for our sport and its customers for many years to come.”

“I’m fortunate to have spent my career in and around the greatest game ever invented,” said Crist, 59, “and to have worked with so many talented colleagues at DRF for the betterment of the game and its customers. I’m really looking forward to doing some other things in retirement, but my heart won’t be far from the racetrack.”

Crist has held several key positions in the racing industry. He covered the sport as a reporter and columnist for The New York Times from 1981 to 1990. In 1990, he became the founding editor-in-chief of The Racing Times, which introduced statistical innovations, including Beyer Speed Figures, detailed race conditions, and timing in hundredths of a second, that have become industry standards.

In 1992, Crist was appointed by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo as a member of a state advisory commission on racing, where he was the catalyst for several reforms, the most important of which was the restructuring of “breakage” on straight wagers from 10 to five cents on the dollar, resulting in millions of dollars returned to bettors. He was a vice president of the New York Racing Association from 1994 to 1997, where he introduced full-card simulcasting and expanded wagering options.

In 1998, Crist and Alpine Capital purchased and transformed DRF, expanding both its statistical and journalistic content. DRF introduced new weekly print publications, instituted a book-publishing division, began selling past performances online, and introduced new products including Formulator and TicketMaker. Crist continued to write a weekly column and a blog, frequently advocating player-friendly changes to the racing game.

While Crist was an important institutional figure on the racing landscape, his most enduring legacy may be as a horseplayer. His handicapping acumen was first brought to light as a frequent guest on the NYRA replay show hosted by Harvey Pack. It was there that he showed a somewhat different approach to picking horses, specifically applying math, logic, and probability in making wagers. Nowhere was this more important than his technique in attacking the great white whale of wagers, the pick six.

His method of strategically weighting horses in each race and forming “backup tickets” – eschewing the commonly used “caveman” approach of one ticket – enhanced his chances of hitting the wager and resulted in Crist cashing many large pick-six payouts. His success with the bet inspired Pack to dub Crist “King of the Pick Six.”

In 2010, Crist was one of four in the inaugural class of racing journalists named to the Media Honor Roll in the sport’s Hall of Fame, along with Charles Hatton, Bill Nack, and Red Smith. Last year, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the National Handicapping Championship, an event he helped create in 1999. He also was instrumental in making the winner of the NHC a recipient of an Eclipse Award, thereby elevating the horseplayer to the level of other major figures in the sport.

He is the author of several books about the sport, including the memoir “Betting on Myself” (2003) and “Exotic Betting” (2006).

Crist lives in Hempstead, N.Y., with his wife, Robin Foster, and two retired racing greyhounds.

Ken Hawes 5 months ago
I am a little late to the party here but I wish Steve the best in his retirement. He should have a column online. I as just one of many handicappers WANT TO SEE HIS PICKS!!!    Good luck to you, Steve!   
Steven Davidowitz 6 months ago
It was with great satisfaction that I worked with and for Steve Crist on several occasions and that he graciously has  credited me to have been one of his "principal handicapping mentors."
No trophy, no  ornament could have been tendered to me for any accomplishment that could be more valuable than to receive such praise from someone who taught me so many things in this game. 
And as others have been saying here, 
I truly treasure the fact that we were and remain the  sincerest of friends.
Enjoy whatever you Steve - and your beautiful, talented wife Robin - choose to do in your retirement.
All the Best/Steve Davidowitz
Thomas Frigiola 7 months ago
You were the best Steve. You will be missed. HOPE TO SEE YOU AT THE TRACK SOON.

Franck Rice 7 months ago
I miss him already.  Good luck in whatever you do Mr. Crist.
ML_NJ 7 months ago
Wow!  Best of luck to you Steve.
Mickey Davidarsky 7 months ago
Is it really a job if it's your passion?  Why retire when you know your head will still always be buried in the racing form? 
David Alexander 8 months ago
Your  retirement  leaves  us  horse  racing  fans   with  a  void   so  huge  that  even  Hatties  chicken  will  not  taste  the  same  anymore.  Good  luck  and   future  success  in  your  nest  ventures..  With  much  respect  David
John Cochrane 8 months ago
There has never been -- and never will be --  a better August Saratoga morning than one spent with Steve and Harvey Pack at a Siro's seminar. Throw in a Bloody Mary for handicapping nirvana.
kevin 8 months ago
Dear Steve; As a fellow New Yorker I loved you on the Harvey Pack Show/Thoroughbred Action at 630 P.M.I was a teenager and early 20s at the time but 25 to 30 years later i still love the game and I think you and that show were a very big influence. Also I enjoyed your Saratoga blog with its mixture of handicapping, food and places to see In Saratoga(for 4 years 2007=2011 I read it every day!!)Lastly your book Exotic Betting was an excellent and insightful look on HOw to bet Pick 4s and Pick 6s. 
        I wish you luck in your retirement. May you have good health and happiness with your wife and dogs. Take care Garden City Kevin
noocheroni 8 months ago
how is your health?