WASHINGTON — Carlos Meyer quit his job as manager of an Alexandria, Va., restaurant so that he could go to Saratoga for the entire racing season and make his fortune.
At the time, this did not appear to be a wholly rational decision. Meyer's bankroll was a meager $1,800 (of which at least half would be needed to pay his bar bill at the Cafe Broadway). Although Meyer would have access to the opinions of some ace gamblers at Saratoga, his own handicapping and betting tend to be erratic at best. Moreover, Meyer is not a lucky guy. His friends have dubbed him "The Human Anchor" and fate never has shown an inclination to let him win a fortune and retire to a life of luxury.
But Meyer would not be deterred. When the Saratoga season ended and most of his friends were toting up their modest profits, Meyer could claim credit for a gambling windfall of $656,592. For someone else, of course.
In the early stages of the meeting, Meyer seemed to be living up to his reputation for lucklessness. He made a plunge on a horse named Wind Chill, who led all the way to win by four lengths and would have doubled Meyer's bankroll -- only to be disqualified for an infraction leaving the gate.
On a day when some of Meyer's friends made their big score by pounding a $74 exacta in the first race, Meyer was too fuzzy-headed to capitalize, after a monumental vodka-drinking performance the night before.
With a week left in the season, and his bankroll near oblivion, Meyer was inconsolable. He had earlier invited a friend, Janice, to join him for the final weekend of the season, but on Friday he called her and canceled the invitation. This turned out to be a memorable broken date.
On Saturday, instead of flying north for a day at Saratoga, Janice spent a normal day in Annapolis. She went to the bank in the morning; she made a stop at Manhattan Liquors, where she bought one ticket in the Maryland lottery; she went to work; she went to a party in the evening. It was not until the next morning she learned that she had won the lottery, that Meyer's canceled invitation had been worth $656,592.15.
Meyer learned of Janice's windfall when he returned home from Saratoga, virtually broke. Some of his friends argued that she should feel morally obliged to cut Meyer in for 10 percent of the winnings; after all, she wouldn't have won the lottery if Meyer hadn't been such a cad.
But Meyer is too much of a gentleman to make such a suggestion and, besides, he had an altogether different reaction. "I thought," he said, "that it was a sign my own luck was about to change."
He wasn't The Anchor any more.
So when Meyer got a phone call a few days later from his friend Paul Cornman, he figured it was all a part of fate's master plan for him. Cornman is a horse owner who is one of New York's best bettors, and he suggested that Meyer come to Belmont Park to bet a terrific 30-to-1 shot in the feature race.
Meyer went, made a big bet, and watched the long shot finish next to last. With his remaining few dollars he wanted to take a last desperation stab in the ninth race, a race in which one of Cornman's horses, Beaujolight, was entered. "Should I bet him?" Meyer asked. "No," Cornman said.
Meyer boxed three horses in the triple, and watched them run second, third and fourth-behind Beaujolight, who paid $77.40 to win.
Meyer took a long train ride back to Washington, arrived at 1 a.m. and found a $35 ticket on his car because of its expired registration. He was so eager to get home and end this awful day that he was driving 73 m.p.h. in a 40-m.p.h. zone when he was stopped by a police officer. Meyer made a suggestion about what the officer could do with the speeding ticket; the officer suggested Meyer accompany him to the police station.
After he was released, Meyer's 1979 Mustang remained impounded. Fortunately, Janice was kind enough to drive him to Pimlico Race Course in her snazzy new white Toyota convertible. Unfortunately, Meyer's luck hasn't changed at Pimlico, either.