Headgear on the flat horse being led up
22nd June 2024

If you wondered what it means when a horse has ‘first time blinkers' then we will answer that question for you below. We will also share the stats on which trainers are effective with first time headgear and will list the runners running today wearing headgear for the first time.

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 we have a summary of the different types of headgear and an explanation of the aim of fitting them on a racehorse. But first here are today's runners wearing headgear for the first time.

First Time Headgear Runners Today (22-06-2024)

Note these are first time headgear runners across all codes, the article below only looked at Flat Handicap races.

13:35 Newmarket (July) 2. Bernadine (IRE) Jockey: Palmer, Oscar Trainer: Fanshawe, J R

13:40 Limerick 6. Monasterboice (IRE) Jockey: Powell, J A Trainer: Meade, Noel

13:40 Limerick 15. Settlement Jockey: Hayes, C D Trainer: Weld, D K

14:05 Down Royal 3. Model Approach (IRE) Jockey: Hill, Gabriella Adela Trainer: Bolger, J S

14:05 Down Royal 10. My Mate Tony (IRE) Jockey: Crosse, Nathan Trainer: OBrien, Joseph Patrick

14:15 Limerick 5. Hemight (IRE) Jockey: Sheridan, J M Trainer: Stack, J A

14:45 Newmarket (July) 3. Royal Elysian Jockey: Muscutt, D Trainer: Ferguson, James

15:25 Limerick 9. Spring Collection Jockey: Hassett, M W Trainer: Kelly, David Harry

15:30 Redcar 14. Askim Jockey: Mathers, Patrick Trainer: Tinkler, N

15:30 Redcar 9. Forever Eighteen (IRE) Jockey: Jary, Alex Trainer: Tinkler, N

15:45 Ascot 2. Jumby (IRE) Jockey: Bishop, Charles Trainer: Houghton, Eve Johnson

15:55 Down Royal 8. Harbour Gem (IRE) Jockey: Roche, L F Trainer: Weld, D K

15:55 Down Royal 2. Ocean Of Dreams (IRE) Jockey: Leonard, Killian Trainer: OBrien, A P

15:55 Down Royal 3. Psalm (IRE) Jockey: Ryan, Gavin Trainer: OBrien, A P

16:30 Down Royal 16. Hungry Rock (IRE) Jockey: Trainer: McNiff, Mark Michael

16:40 Limerick 4. Apache Eagle Jockey: McDonogh, D P Trainer: OBrien, Joseph Patrick

16:40 Limerick 6. Mont St Michel (IRE) Jockey: Hassett, M W Trainer: OBrien, A P

16:55 Redcar 3. We Never Stop (IRE) Jockey: Gray, S A Trainer: Ryan, K A

17:05 Ascot 3. Coachello (FR) Jockey: Loughnane, Mr Billy Trainer: Loughnane, Daniel Mark

17:05 Ascot 12. Juan Les Pins Jockey: Rawlinson, Ali Trainer: Appleby, M

17:15 Newmarket (July) 5. Swiss Money (FR) Jockey: Havlin, Robert Trainer: Dickin, Harriet

17:20 Limerick 8. Blackberry Jack (IRE) Jockey: Harnett, P A Trainer: Leahy, Denis

17:20 Limerick 2. Caradoc (IRE) Jockey: Hogan, C M Trainer: McNamara, E

17:25 Ayr 7. Allegro Brillante Jockey: Waugh, Amie Trainer: Goldie, J S

17:30 Redcar 5. Michaels Pledge (IRE) Jockey: Sanna, G Trainer: Quinn, J J

17:40 Ascot 5. Balmacara Jockey: Bishop, Charles Trainer: Houghton, Eve Johnson

17:40 Ascot 4. Treasure Jockey: Ryan, Rossa Trainer: Beckett, R M

18:25 Ayr 8. Gaenari (IRE) Jockey: Sheehy, Danny Trainer: Dias, Diego

18:25 Ayr 5. Silent Words Jockey: McSweeney, O Trainer: Ryan, K A

18:55 Ayr 5. Cavalier Approach (IRE) Jockey: Dennis, Phil Trainer: Bethell, Ed

19:30 Lingfield 2. Bolly Dolly Jockey: Bowen, S D Trainer: Murphy, Amy

19:30 Lingfield 10. Lillys Bet Jockey: Callan, N Trainer: Knight, W J

19:55 Ayr 6. Loom Large (IRE) Jockey: Mullen, Andrew Trainer: Jardine, I

19:55 Ayr 8. Onthebunny Jockey: Jakes, Tommie Trainer: Perratt, Miss L A

19:55 Ayr 10. The Worlds Astage (IRE) Jockey: Sheehy, Danny Trainer: Dias, Diego

20:30 Lingfield 3. Head Of State (IRE) Jockey: Bradley, Paddy Trainer: Ingram, R

20:30 Lingfield 4. Kodiac Brave (IRE) Jockey: Ingram, Rhiain B Trainer: Benton, Craig

21:00 Lingfield 2. Twitch (NZ) Jockey: Ingram, Rhiain B Trainer: Benton, Craig

Blinkers

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.

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.

Hood

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.

Visor

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.

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

Cheekpieces

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

Ian Williams no headgear system

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

Ian Williams system broken down by year

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

Ralph Beckett

Ralph Beckett first time headgear stats

From the above we can see a slight loss in 2017 but solid gains for the next three Flat campaigns before quite a blip last year.

So far 2022 has given a winner along with 4 other placers including a 20/1 runner up which paid 6.80 on the BF Place SP. This would indicate that there is still some scope with this yards runners when they race in headgear for the first time.

Moving on next up we have a trainer that is an important member of the Godolphin setup…

Charlie Appleby

Charlie Appleby first time headgear stats

There are not many qualifiers, but the quality of the results makes up for the lack of numbers with 4 out of 5 winning campaigns. Surprisingly though the yard is 0 from 8 so far in 2022! Moving up north to County Durham….

Michael Dods

Michael Dods first time headgear stats

Pretty much all the gains were made in 2020 and 1 winner from 27 such runners last year doesn’t inspire much confidence especially given all ten that have ran so far in this campaign have lost.

Next up is a dual purpose trainer who has made great strides in recent years with his Flat racers.

Alan King

The Barbary Castle based trainer was recently noted in a Racing Post piece in which the writer concluded that Alan King was more likely to have a winner at Royal Ascot (he had a treble there in 2020) than at the Cheltenham Festival. Looking at the above table would indicate that the yard has turned to headgear quite sparingly but the A/E of 1.62 shows overall it has been effective.

Alan King first time headgear stats

Paul & Oliver Cole

After the BHA introduced the concept in 2020, Paul along with his son Oliver became one of the first partnerships to train under a joint licence in the UK.

A couple of stellar years in 2019/20 combined with minor losses during the other 3 campaigns make for an interesting ride!

We will skip James Fanshawe given that the profits came back in 2017 and the yard is 2 from 11 and running a loss since then.

Roger Teal has been profitable overall with his runner’s wearing headgear for the first time but again doesn’t appeal given the inconsistent profile. Finally, Tom Clover and Dean Ivory have had their moments with runners of this kind but again the consistency falls short of our objectives.

In conclusion there are snippets of potential by taking a closer look at the aforementioned yards when they apply headgear for the first time in Handicap races during the Flat campaign but if we take a look at the results when we put them all together it highlights a worrying trend.

Yearly breakdown for selected yards

From 2017 through to 2020 we see a trend of increasing profits but then in 2021 the trait declines and so far this year the results have been even worse.

Is it a case that the market corrected itself given the standout A/E of 2.35 at its peak, or could it be simply that the yards have altered their pattern of behaviour in more recent times? The most sensible course of action would appear to be that we revisit this angle after the completion of the 2022 Flat campaign and see if the profits have reappeared.

For the record these are the 10 trainers that at our initial look see showed the most promise: –

Charlie Appleby, Ralph Beckett, Tom Clover, Paul Cole, Michael Dods, James Fanshawe, Dean Ivory, Alan King, Roger Teal, Ian Williams

Until next time

Steve Carter