Ground loss is one of the more important yet often overlooked angles in handicapping.
The concept is rather simple. If one horse hugs the rail and his main rival has to travel six or seven paths wide, not only will that other horse have to cover more ground, it also runs the risk of losing some momentum while navigating the final turn.
When you consider that Ragozin Sheets, aka The Sheets, and Thoro-Graph, two of the premier speed figure services, both incorporate ground loss into their figures, it’s a compelling sign of its value.
So looking for horses coming off good efforts in which they rallied unusually wide can be an effective handicapping tool.
All of which brings us to Jackson, who ran Feb. 22 in the World of Trouble Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 4-year-old was coming off a strong effort in a Sunshine Millions Sprint Stakes in which he was eighth in the early stages then was forced to rally seven to eight wide on the final turn and still managed to move up from fifth at the eighth pole to third at the wire, gaining 5 ¾ lengths in the final furlong.
Suffice it to say, Jackson probably would have been closer at the wire had he been able to save more ground on the turn.
Looking over his past performances, there were even more reasons to believe Jackson could turn in a better effort in the World of Trouble. In his race before the Sunshine Millions, Jackson was a convincing 3 ½-length winner of a stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Prior to that sharp effort, though he was seventh and 10th in his two previous starts, he had two big excuses. In one, his rider lost his irons. In the other, he was steadied at the start.
Putting all of that together, in Jackson’s last four starts, the only time he had a smooth trip, he won. Given that he was listed at 10-1 on the morning line, Jackson was certainly an intriguing play with the anticipation of a better trip.
And this time, after some bumping at the start, Jackson finally had Lady Luck on his side. He stalked in second while running in the two path and then surged to the front in mid-stretch and drew off to score by three quarters of a length.
He paid $28.20 to win for a $2 wager, which gave his backers a chance to add some Jacksons – Andrew Jacksons – to their wallet.