Sunday, August 23, 2009
Bridge to Nowhere
The numbers say it all. The symmetry is blatantly disrupted by the third column of numbers; the show prices: $97. $172. and $138. In horse racing it's what's called "bridge jumping."
Here's the deal. When a race sets up in such a way that the overwhelming favorite is sure to run at least third, a wealthy, albeit greedy, bettor places a huge "show" wager and is assured of collecting a guaranteed 10 cents on the dollar. In their mind they think, if I can produce $100,000. they'll give me $2000. It usually works. When it doesn't, you lose big, hence the term bridge jumper.
Someone tried this last Saturday at the Humboldt County Fair race meet in Ferndale. This is in very Northern California, just below Eureka. This little fair racing site holds the distinction of being the longest continual racing fair in the nation. To appreciate Ferndale, you must see it. It's a 5/8 mile track set in the redwoods in the tiny dairy community of Ferndale. It's so full of tradition you can't take a sep in any direction without bumping into something or someone who can tell you a story, recall an event, or bring a smile just by recalling something they've seen. In my years as a turf writer for The Blood-Horse magazine I did a few Ferndale related pieces, even got the cover-story one time. That will have to wait for another time, last Saturday Ferndale wrote it's latest chapter with the tale of a true bridge jumper race.
Here's how the board read:
2 $14.20 5.80 97.40
3 $11.00 172.60
There were 5 horses in the race. The #6 horse ran fourth, and the 1/9 overwhelming favorite the #5 horse ran last. What happened? At this writing I do not know, but will investigate. Knowing Ferndale, the horse could have broken down and not finished the race, or could have been taken out by missing the turn for some reason. Ferndale's turns are extremely tight. They are not banked as with other 5/8 mile tracks still in existence, so, if a horse misses the turn or is outside of another horse who gets carried wide, bam! you are out of contention in a heartbeat. Maybe that happened. In any case, a quick review of the betting pools of that race reveal that the amount bet to show on those 5 horses looked like this:
The #1 horse was scratched and did not run.
When the #5 horse finished out of the money, all the show money bet was distributed to those bettors who held show wagers on #s 2, 3, or 4. Hence the inflated prices.
This is the stuff of racing lore. There is certainly more to this story. I'll see what I can dig up. I need to tell you that whoevr bet the $90 + thousand dollars to show on the 5 horse could have done it from anywhere that race was simulcast. They need not walk onto the fair grounds with that much cash. It could have even been in the form of a voucher. In any case, smells like a bridge jumper to me.
At this writing I have no knowledge of the person or persons who made and lost that bet. But one fascinating detail remains. The name of the 1/9 horse who took all that money and finished off the board was Snatch the Cash.