Probably no thoroughbred that raced in South Florida over the past four decades escaped the attention of Chuck Streva. From the legends to the losers, he witnessed nearly all, and because of expertise, he provided local newspapers, including the Miami Herald, with his daily selections.
“He always told me the magic number was [picking] 29 percent winners,” said Keith Sargent, a longtime friend.
Streva, who came from a family of horse handicappers, lines makers and chart-callers, died Friday. He was 56. Though he was in pain and suffering from cancer, friends said, he worked up until the end. His final Gulfstream Park selections appeared in Sunday’s Miami Herald.
“He saw many a great horse,” said thoroughbred trainer Cam Gambolati, whose Spend A Buck won the 1985 Kentucky Derby. “He was one of the good guys of the business.”
Said Washington Post turf writer and expert handicapper Andrew Beyer: “He loved the game.”
Streva’s fascination with the sport was ingrained in him at an early age. His grandfather, Dave Wilson, was a respected handicapper and chart caller, as was an uncle, Jack Wilson, who called the charts for the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.
He quickly made a name for himself. In the early 1980s, using a speed-figure system developed by his grandfather, he defeated veteran handicappers in a Miami News contest.
Streva eventually branched out into other areas as a morning lines maker, setting the program odds at Gulfstream, Hialeah and Calder, as a chart-caller for the Daily Racing Form and, more recently, Equibase.
It is the chart-caller’s job to accurately detail a race, calling out margins of distance between horses and different points in a race and writing a description of the race in footnote form below the chart.
That information is used by handicappers to help them make their bets.
“It’s an art in itself,” Gulfstream Park handicapper Ron Nicoletti said. “And he was the best. He kept unbelievable records.”
Beyer said Streva was the best in the country at providing accurate, objective information.
“The charts that he called, in many ways, reflected his personality,” Beyer said. “He was always objective, unemotional and straightforward. His are a clinical dissection. He used words in a very measured sense, whether a horse was checked or blocked or steadied. He understood the seriousness of every word that might describe trouble.”
When Barbaro won the 2006 Florida Derby at Gulfstream, Streva’s footnote of the race mentioned that the horse “bobbled and bumped with Charging Image at the start.”
“He was a guy who just looked at the facts,” Beyer said. “There are a lot of [tracks] where the charts aren’t good. They’re either not accurate or they overstate trouble in one case and dismiss it in another.”
Streva, who lived in Palmetto Bay, is survived his wife, Connie, and sons, Chris and Michael.
Funeral arrangements are pending.