An Introduction To Headgear
In later blogs I intend to cover in detail the various types of headgear that racehorses wear, and
their possible effect on performance. As an introduction today I will focus on some recent performances
of horses wearing blinkers, cheekpieces, a visor or a hood.
Blinkers consist of a head cloth with cowls, or cups, over the eyes which restrict a horse’s
peripheral vision. Blinkers help a horse to focus on racing by ensuring that it is looking forward
rather than at what’s going on around it.
Lingfield (AW), 21st November: 5yr old Brex Drago, by the American-bred sire Mujahid, outran his
33/1 odds in first-time blinkers when a neck second in a thirteen runner class 3 handicap. This was
his first run following a gelding operation, and it will be interesting to see if blinkers are as
effective the next time he runs.
Chelmsford, 23rd November: Rock On Baileys, a Rock of Gibraltar juvenile filly, was much better
fancied than Brex Drago when wearing blinkers for the first time in a class 6, 5 furlong nursery
handicap. Starting the 9/4 favourite, she won by an easy 3¾ lengths under champion jockey Silvestre
Wincanton, 23rd November: Over the jumps at Wincanton, Colin Tizzard’s handicap chaser Cucklington
was showing his appreciation for a pair of blinkers when winning his second race in succession with
the headgear applied.
Newcastle, 24th November: Trainer Richard Fahey saw fit to equip his 2yr old grey gelding Windsor
Cross (by Camacho) with first-time blinkers in a 7 furlong, class 6 novice auction stakes. There was a
hot favourite in Irish raider Darkolva, but he couldn’t live with the front-running Windsor Cross,
who won by 1½ lengths from 20/1 outsider Fascinator, with Darkolva in third place.
Cheekpieces comprise two sheepskin strips which are fitted to the cheek straps of the bridle. As
with the use of blinkers, the intention is to help the horse to concentrate by partially restricting
its rear vision.
Chelmsford, 23rd November: A sixteen runner class 6 handicap is never the easiest of races to
solve, so any horse wearing headgear for the first time is worth a second look. Two horses qualified:
Ann Duffield’s Sugar Beach, in a first-time hood, was nibbled at in the market from 33/1 to 20/1 and
ran respectably to finish fourth. The winner was the 3yr old filly, Anna Medici (by Sir Percy), who
was equipped with cheekpieces for the first time. According to Racing Post analyst Steffan Edwards,
Sir Mark Prescott’s filly had not been entirely focused in her previous races, but the cheekpieces woke
Newcastle, 24th November: Trainer Ivan Furtado’s Malaspina, a 5yr old Italian-bred mare having her
first run in Britain, was wearing first-time cheekpieces. Appearing in an 8 furlong, class 5 handicap,
she made light work of the task, leading from start to finish. It remains to be seen whether headgear
will be considered necessary on her next run.
Ascot, 25th November: The 6yr old Graceful Legend looks a useful mare to go to war with in handicap
hurdles. She was the five length winner of a class 3 race on this occasion, and trainer Ben Case attributed
her victory to a combination of a step up in trip from 2 miles to 2 miles 5 furlongs, and the application
of first-time cheekpieces.
Exeter, 26th November: 7yr old novice chaser Duel At Dawn wore cheekpieces for the first time at
Chepstow at the end of October, and ran a promising race to be second in a class 3 contest. Trainer Alex
Hales clearly thought that the cheekpieces had helped Duel At Dawn to be competitive, and he retained them
for his next race at Exeter. Again in class 3, the gelding had only two opponents, one of whom was a
well-fancied runner from the Paul Nicholls yard, and could do no more than win convincingly. Racing Post
analyst Dave Orton was in no doubt that the cheekpieces played their part in Duel At Dawn’s success.
A visor is similar to blinkers, except that the cups have a hole or slit cut into them, allowing some
limited vision to the side or rear, A trainer may think it useful for the horse to know if another horse
is coming up behind it.
Ascot, 24th November: Trainer Emma Lavelle was quoted in the Racing Post Weekender as saying that her
7yr old handicap chaser, Fortunate George, had a tendency to be overly careful at his fences. She felt that
a visor, which he’d worn in the past, would help his jumping, and so he was refitted with the headgear on
this occasion. Despite hitting a flat spot four fences from home, Fortunate George eventually forged clear
and won by a wide margin.
A hood comprises a head cloth without eye cowls but which covers the ears. It’s used on horses that may
react adversely to noise.
Ffos Las, 24th November: Racing Post analyst Dave Randall considers that trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is
adept at successfully employing first-time headgear. Recent evidence of this is the victory of 4yr old grey
gelding Luckofthedraw. Wearing a first-time hood, he was too good for his rivals in the concluding National
Hunt flat race at Ffos Las.