Ground loss has become an increasingly important aspect of handicapping.
Premium handicapping services, such as the Ragozin Sheets and Thoro-Graph rely heavily on ground loss and wide trips in the compilation of their speed figures. Trackus also provides helpful data on the amount of added ground each horse covers in a race.
How ground loss data can come into play is that it shows how a horse who suffered a narrow loss turned in a better effort than a horse that finished ahead of him – all because the horse that finished fourth covered significantly more ground than the winner.
Of course, the naked eye can also come in handy in picking out a horse that was placed at a disadvantage by a wide trip.
A case in point is the 10th race at Churchill Downs on May 9.
Marine Patrol was a slight 3.30-to-1 favorite in the mile and a sixteenth turf race and broke from post eight in a field of nine. In a hotly contested race that saw the first eight finishers grouped within 2 ½ lengths of each other, Marine Patrol was forced to rally six-wide. That move not only slowed Marine Patrol’s momentum at a crucial point in the race but also caused him to lose considerable ground as he wound up fourth, just three quarters of a length behind the winner.
Take away that wide trip and perhaps Marine Patrol wins the race.
That notion stands in sharp contrast to the image of Marine Patrol as a beaten favorite who could do no better than finish fourth.
When Marine Patrol returned to the races on June 14 in the third race at Churchill Downs, handicappers had to decide on how to view Marine Patrol’s last race.
If the ground loss resonated with you, then you were on board when Marine Patrol atoned for his previous race. Though he rallied wide once again, this time he surged to the front in the final sixteenth of a mile and registered a three-quarters of a length victory as the $1.60-to-1 favorite.
THE LESSON: A narrow loss can sometimes be explained by a wide trip that forced an also-ran to cover more ground than the winner.