As you read this I’ll be happily sitting in or strolling through my personal Mecca, the grandstand of Saratoga Race Course upstate. I’ve gone every year since 1987, save one. That was 2013, when my close friend Cary Fotias passed away. Since 2003, a bunch of friends assembled by Cary have shared a house in the general vicinity of the racetrack. Last year we reassembled to celebrate his life, naming a race after him and spreading his ashes in the infield. We know he would have wanted that.
Cary never traded convertibles. Currencies were his game, until he left the Street to devote himself full-time to betting horses and creating high-quality speed figures for an elite group of bettors. But he would have been a great convert trader. When we’d ride up the Thruway to Saratoga, I would explain the convertible market to him, and invariably he’d come up with some great questions and insights. Cary wasn’t just a numbers guy, though he was brilliant with them. He loved games and nuances, of psyching out the opposition over coffee and some mild contraband. He knew sports better than anyone I’ve ever known—it was almost impossible to name a player in any major sport from the last 50 years that Cary couldn’t tell you something about.
Cary would have understood that the model is just a model. He would have known how to get ahead of the indexers, beating them at their own game. But he also would have known when to listen to the numbers. I like to think he’s proud of me, somewhere, for doing my part to add to the canon of convertible analysis with the statistics we’ve developed at Hillside. I’m pretty sure his memory inspired me to take my own shot, just as he did. And one thing I know for certain—at all the convertible events, Cary would have been the guy everyone wanted to hang with, to hear his jokes and observations, and to enjoy his non-stop energy. As one of his friends said, “Cary was the smartest, loudest, brashest, and nicest person I’ve ever known.”
At Cary’s funeral there must have been at least half a dozen people, probably more, who thought of him as their best friend. I know I did. His mother said she’d never seen so many grown men crying. It struck me then, as it does now, that the best measure of wealth may be the number of friends who cry at your funeral.
Somehow I think the sportswriter Grantland Rice, who passed away when Cary was an infant in 1954, had Cary in mind when he wrote,
"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game."
Hybrid Vigor will not be published for the next two weeks. We will return on Tuesday, September 8. As Cary would always sign off,
(This is the cover letter for the subscription-based weekly Hillside's Hybrid Vigor newsletter. For a complete copy, please contact John Anderson at + 1 (646) 712-9289 x 107).