For most of the first two days, Beyer kept his own counsel, but then, early on Sunday morning, he said, "I'll make my move in the fourth race today on a horse named See I.A. I've got a fig on him you wouldn't believe."
Although See I.A. had won only one of its last 20 starts, Beyer bet the $652 left in his bankroll to win. When his wager showed beneath his name card, fans began marching to the windows to bet See I.A. Then Beyer looked back at the card of Bo Runkle, a Series contestant who earns his living betting horses at Penn National. Runkle had a bigger bankroll than Beyer and was wagering $1,000 to win and $1,000 to place on See I.A. At one point the horse had been 11-1 on the odds board, but with Beyer and Runkle putting huge chunks of their contest money on See I.A., the odds plummeted to 4-1. See I.A. won by half a length, and Beyer, with $3,326, moved up to third place, but Runkle, the second-place finisher in 1979, boomed to $8,715.20, a lead of some $4,700 over second-place Sam Perillo. It was obvious to most observers that the World Series of Handicapping was over for 1980.
Perillo didn't think so. He had played well throughout and had put $200 on See I.A. Perillo, a 55-year-old employee of Mailers Union II in Cicero, Ill., has been betting horses for 35 years. One race after the Series seemed finished, Perillo made one of the biggest bets of his life, wagering $1,800 to win on a 4-1 shot, Bright Treasure, in a turf race. The 9-year-old gelding stayed off the early pace and then ran to the wire like a mouse to cheese. Perillo won $9,180, boosting his bankroll to $11,160.60. Now the Series was really over. There were five races left, but nobody could catch Perillo. Runkle finished second.
"If I had to give people advice about handicapping," Perillo said afterward, "I would say run away from trainers' tips and don't try to bet every race. If I don't like a certain jockey and feel he's a bad rider, I'll pass the race even though the jockey may get lucky, win and cost me money. But the most important thing about handicapping is managing your money.
"In the years I've been betting I've driven a lot of bad iron around Cicero because I lost money and couldn't afford good cars. I haven't had that problem in about five years, ever since I locked myself in my room at home for a week. I went over my figures and saw how I had bet on horses and had made a lot of stupid moves in the management of money on those bets. I had friends who would follow me over a mountain with my selections and would make money from them because they knew how to manage it. The way I handicap is to look through the past performances, watch the races and take notes on my program. Then I see the races played back on videotape and take more notes. When the day's over, I go home and translate those notes into a book. I keep about eight months of charts in my house so I can refer to them."
The races Perillo enjoys betting on most are those on turf, or "weeds," as many handicappers call them. "So many things happen in grass races," Perillo says, "that you can often pick up a horse that'll win its next start if you've noticed that the horse was blocked trying to get through a hole or went wide." Two races before winning for Perillo, Bright Treasure had run at Penn National and been severely impeded. And Sam had noted that before he picked the horse which made him, for this year, at least, America's best handicapper.