The Effect Of Headgear On Horses

There are a lot of differing opinions about whether the use of headgear affects a racehorse for the better or for the worse. In this article I am looking to uncover some statistics that will begin to make this clearer.

To start it is important that we get an initial overview of how runners with headgear perform in general.

Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
28760 2684 9.33 -7291.83 -25.35

As you can see it does not look good! In 2009 there were 28760 runners who wore headgear and only 9.33% of them won their races producing a massive loss. There are very different types of headgear though and we need to split this up to see if they were all producing similar losing figures or if there were some that performed better.

Headgear Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
Blinkers 6032 603 10 -1028.51 -17.05
Blinkers 1st 1645 107 6.5 -599.91 -36.47
Cheek 6814 642 9.42 -1822.28 -26.74
Cheek 1st 1907 160 8.39 -488.26 -25.6
Tongue 4544 445 9.79 -1309.28 -28.81
Tongue/Blinkers 517 58 11.22 -128.59 -24.87
Tongue/Cheek 614 51 8.31 -257.8 -41.99
Tongue 1st 1211 98 8.09 -356.56 -29.44
Visor 3025 303 10.02 -648.33 -21.43
Visor 1st 919 74 8.05 -177.54 -19.32

I have removed any headgear where there were less than 30 winners in the last year. Interestingly 1st time blinkers seems to produce very high losses based on ROI, as do tongue/cheek combination.

Is it possible to find a profit by just using headgear?

I am going to focus the rest of this article on horses wearing blinkers as they have the largest amount of runners and the best ROI in the data sample that we are using.

Race Type Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
A/W 1695 182 10.74 -260.29 -15.36
Chase 636 58 9.12 -126.12 -19.83
Hurdle 700 67 9.57 -0.28 -0.04
Turf 1747 147 8.41 -433.74 -24.83

As you can see splitting the horses wearing blinkers by race type produces some very interesting results. Hurdle races are only losing -0.04% of every 1 unit bet, which is effectively break even to SP. This was easy to achieve without beginning to dig seriously into the data!

It would make sense to focus on hurdle races from now on, although this is not to say that the other races cannot show profit from headgear based strategies.

The most obvious place to start with is by seeing how horses perform in hurdle races based on their SP rank.

SP Rank Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
1 58 20 34.48 6.85 11.81
2 58 7 12.07 -15.63 -26.94
3 73 10 13.7 -12.5 -17.12
4 58 6 10.34 -9 -15.52
5 72 2 2.78 -51 -70.83
6 74 4 5.41 -29 -39.19
7 59 5 8.47 25 42.37
8 51 4 7.84 20 39.22
9 43 2 4.65 -7 -16.28
10 34 1 2.94 -13 -38.24
11 41 3 7.32 22 53.66
12 21 0 0 -21 -100
13 19 0 0 -19 -100
14 16 1 6.25 18 112.5

Well we are already into profit by flat betting any runner that is the favourite in hurdle races and is wearing blinkers. This is likely be back-fitted unfortunately so let us look at how this performs in 2010 so far.

SP Rank Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
1 19 6 31.58 -1.52 -8.02

As you can see this is not so good. Have we back-fitted or is it just that we haven’t had enough runners yet? These selections would have been just above break-even at Betfair SP. I would suggest that this is most likely back-fitted to the data though and we want to take a look at another area.

How do we choose an area to investigate? There are many ways but I would suggest the simplest, common sense. It is very easy to get so involved in assessing data and trying to be clever with it that you forget to use common sense. I have been a culprit of this many times myself and, after taking a break and coming back to it, realise that if I had just spent a moment thinking about the most logical methods then quite often I would have got the result I wanted faster.

My suggestion is that a lot of the time horses finding success in wearing blinkers are likely to be coming back after a longer lay-off. There would have been time to run them off-track to see how they perform wearing blinkers. Of course this will not always be the case and is a very simplified principle but it may be enough to help us find a profit.

DSLR Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
0-7 62 8 12.9 -3.52 -5.68
8-14 139 11 7.91 -46.13 -33.18
15-21 124 12 9.68 -40.83 -32.93
22-28 101 11 10.89 31.05 30.74
29-42 108 11 10.19 -11.88 -11
43-56 51 8 15.69 30.83 60.45
57-90 40 2 5 32 80
91-150 24 2 8.33 51 212.5
150+ 51 2 3.92 -42.8 -83.92

We have very interesting results here that show horses who have been laid-off for between 43-150 days and come back wearing blinkers on their next race have been profitable.

If we take a look at this over 2010 to see how badly this has been back-fitted we get:

Year Runners Winners Win S/R P/L to SP ROI to SP
2009 115 12 10.43 113.83 98.98
2010 42 6 14.29 28.5 67.86

Horses wearing blinkers in a hurdle race who have not run for between 43 and 150 days made a significant profit in 2009 and have also done so in 2010 to SP. The profit to Betfair SP will be even higher.

I am not suggesting for a moment that you go off and start betting on these horses as a method this simple is likely to be highly volatile and may make good profit for a few years and then lose for the next few.

What can I use it for?

This is a basis to assessing these runners. You can automatically put these horses in as possible contenders where you may not have before. Once marked as a contender further handicapping will reveal whether the horse has the likely class, speed, form etc….. to be able to compete in the race. If this is also a positive then you may find yourself with a good priced winner on your hands.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. hi,in regards to your article THE EFFECT OF HEADGEAR ON HORSES would it not be better to look for a system to lay horses with headgear. cheers, derek.

  2. Results for race distance would be interesting,because horses wearing blinkers and running around more than one bend would have a very low s/r

    1. A great suggestion, I have made a note and will look into doing some analysis on it.

  3. Hi, I was wondering if it would be ok to credit your piece as a source in an article I am writing?



      1. Absolutely. I’ve added a link to the original and will let you know when it’s published

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