Saturday, October 15th is Bridge Day, when the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia is closed to traffic for the day so that several hundred brave souls can base jump from the 876 foot high bridge with close to 80,000 spectators looking on. Bridge Day has become an annual Fall tradition in the Mountain State and is anticipated by extreme sports enthusiasts from around the world.
In honor of Bridge Day, we want to take a look at another type of “bridge jumpers”, who has an almost equal amount of courage as the people who will be leaping from the New River Gorge Bridge…
Bridge Jumper (n.) ~ A person making an unusually large wager on a single horse – often to show. The amount of the bet is so large that if it proves to be a losing wager the person may feel like jumping off of the nearest bridge.
So if the risk of these huge wagers is so high, why would anyone make them? Are these just brash thrill seekers who are looking for an adrenaline rush? Actually, no. The theory behind bridge jumping relies on the minimum payout rules in place for single horse wagers. Depending on the state, the track must generally pay out a minimum of 5 cents to 10 cents return on every dollar wagered on a winning single horse ticket – regardless of what the true odds are in the parimutuel pools. So as an example, in a state with a 10 percent minimum return, for every $2 wagered a winning show ticket must pay at least $2.20, even if that creates a negative pool where the racetrack has to pay out more money than was available in the pool for that wager. Bridge jumpers are trying to take advantage of this guaranteed rate of return on horses that seem to be a sure thing.
Now if you have spent much time around a racetrack, you have probably heard stories of bridge jumpers, some of which may be true and others which may be little more than urban legend. By far the most entertaining account of a mysterious bridge jumper comes from a column in Daily Racing Form, which tells the tale of “The Lady In Red”