Steven Crist, the longtime Daily Racing Form executive and columnist, announced his retirement Wednesday. Crist, who put together an investment group to buy the property 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, Chairman and CEO, Daily Racing Form. “Steve has been an outstanding steward of the DRF brand, 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.”
“I’m fortunate to have spent my career in and around the greatest game ever invented,” said Crist, who is 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.
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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 “back-up 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 also inducted into the Hall of Fame for the National Handicapping Championship, an event he helped create in 1999. He was also 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.