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Research Corner – First time Headgear

How often when reading the daily race form do we come across the phrase “first time in blinkers or hood” highlighted by the spotlight comments and what does this actually mean?

Headgear is primarily used by trainers to try and improve a horse’s overall performance, and different types of headgear can be used to correct different issues, such as greenness or lack of concentration.

Below is a quick summary of the different types of headgear and an explanation of the aim of fitting them on a racehorse: –


One of the most frequently used items of headgear are blinkers. They are used to help horses that may appear to have a concentration problem.

If a horse has been turning its head during racing and looking around, blinkers are used to restrict its view.

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The biggest improvement in performance is usually seen when the blinkers are put on for the first time and generally speaking it is thought that the more a horse wears them, the more used to them they become and the less effective they are.


A hood covers the horses’ ears and head leaving eye holes for them to see and may help horses that are nervous of crowds and noises that they may encounter at the racetrack.

They are designed with padding around the ears and so restrict the noise of the crowd, which will help a nervous horse to be calmed down.

Hoods are particularly useful with juveniles (2 year olds) and are sometimes used in just the parade ring and removed as they leave the paddock area.


A visor is very similar to blinkers; however, there is a key difference in that visors have a slight slit cut in the side of them which helps stop a horse from panicking if it can’t see the other runners. The slit provides the reassurance that there are other runners but maintains the focus of going forward.

User: Goodwin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Cheekpieces are quite similar to blinkers as they are used to help a horse concentrate. The main difference is that they’re less restrictive than blinkers.

They can also be used to help a horse settle before a race and are significantly quicker to put on and off than blinkers.

Cheekpieces are usually worn by horses that find it hard to maintain a straight line, and potentially could wander about especially when under pressure at the business end of a race.

Now we know a little more about the various forms of headgear we can move onto exploring which trainers have used them to a positive affect particularly when they are applied for the first time on a horse in their yard.

We will keep our research to the most recent five years as in during the period from the start of 2021 through to the end of 2021 and furthermore we will focus on the Flat and Handicap races only.

In addition, our check list will filter out trainers that have not had at least 25 first time headgear runners during our five year review period along with at least 5 of them winning, and finally the winners must have outperformed the market expectation. To validate this last point, we will use the A/E figure where anything higher than 1.00 is deemed a positive indicator.

There were 46 yards that won with 5 of their horses wearing first time headgear during the flat campaigns of 2017-21. Of those only 10 did so with a profit at Betfair SP and an A/E in excess of 1.00.

We will now take a closer look at each of them starting with Ian Williams: –

Ian Williams

If we breakdown the above into the individual campaigns we find: –

Three out of the five had decent ROI% but there were a couple of losing years so possibly not for the fainthearted!

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