05/01/2003 11:00PM

Show dough not so easy

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ALBANY, Calif. - Getting a 5 percent return on your money doesn't seem so bad in these economic times.

Racetrack bridge-jumpers have long accepted the 5 percent, overloading show pools, and taking their $2.10 return on $2 short-term investment.

Wednesday, for the second time at Bay Meadows in just over one month, a bridge-jumper plunged and lost when Pilgrim Miss finished fourth, beaten a head for third in the final jump.

Small fields and prohibitive favorites - not the Golden Gate Bridge - make northern California attractive to bridge-jumpers. During summer months, the fair circuit no longer takes show wagering in mule races featuring champion Black Ruby, who has not finished off the board in six years.

Pilgrim Miss's profile was similar to most of the horses that attract bridge-jumpers. She had won four straight as the odds-on favorite at the $12,500 claiming level. She was 5 for 7 at the distance and had run third in her other two attempts.

She had come through for a bridge-jumper in her previous start.

But this time she didn't.

This time the $70,000 bet on her in Chicago and the $36,000 bet on her in New Jersey ended up going to the backers of Flying Alibi, the $18.80 winner who returned $28.40 to show, Biker's Sis ($23 to show), and Remember Dorothy ($11.80).

Getting five cents on a dollar, you still lose money when you're right 95 percent (19 of 20) of the time.

bridge-jumpers also took a big hit in the Berkeley Handicap March 29 at Golden Gate Fields when favored Halo Cat ran a dull race and never contended. He attracted $79,274 of the $92,178 in the show pool. There was $60,000 wagered on Halo Cat in Chicago alone.

Berkeley winner I'madrifter paid $22 to win but $28.20 to show, with Palmeiro returning $23.80 and Skip to the Stone $26.40 as their show prices.

When a bridge-jumper fails, racetrackers often shake their heads and ask, "If you've got $2,000 why do you need $100?"

But, bridge-jumpers don't always fail.

bridge-jumpers succeeded the first 10 times they placed bets at the current Bay Meadows meet.

In those 10 races, including three on April 20, show pools totaled $803,000, with $478,000 in wagers from Chicago and another $60,000 in two wagers from New Jersey.

For $608,000 in wagers from Chicago, the loss amounted to $106,100.

Because the heavy wagers are not at Bay Meadows and are paid out at the origination of the bet, Bay Meadows has not been hurt by the minus show pools.

* Three-year-old Mavoreen, winner of the San Jose Stakes in her last start, will meet older foes in Sunday's Bay Meadows feature, a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on turf for fillies and mares.