Understanding the horse racing race card can be tricky for newcomers to the world of racing betting – but even experienced punters may be confused when seeing ‘WS’ next to a horse.
WS stands for wind surgery and is one of the procedures owners can conduct on a horse to ensure it runs at its maximum. This guide – the latest in the Paddy Power series of Demystifying Racing articles – will explain what is a wind operation and why race horses undergo it.
And, of course, you’ll learn how wind surgery affects a horse’s odds – if indeed it does at all!
WHAT IS WIND SURGERY?
Wind surgery is a term used for a medical procedure done on a horse to improve its airflow. A standing horse doesn’t require much oxygen compared to a race horse at full gallop. But when a horse runs, occasionally a dysfunctional nerve to the left of the larynx prevents the air passage from being clear. A horse can therefore struggle to breathe properly and not take in the required oxygen it needs to race, nor can it expel the carbon dioxide building up in the lungs.
Wind surgery usually aims to either tie back the left vocal cord and sack behind it, or remove them altogether. In total there are five types of wind operation:
- Tie back (prosthetic laryngoplasty)
- Hobday (ventriculectomy/cordectomy)
- Epiglottic surgery
- Tie forward (dorsal displacement soft palate surgery)
- Soft palate cautery
Importantly, these procedures are done for the benefit of the horse, which can now breathe more easily when running.
HOW TO SPOT WIND OPERATION ON A RACE CARD
Until 2018 there was no requirement for bookmakers to stipulate that a horse had undergone a wind operation when printing their race cards. However, the BHA now require bookies to provide horse racing betting fans with the info next to any affected horse.
You will see the letters ‘WS’ on the card of a horse that has had “new wind surgery since last performance”. The decision to introduce this was to be clearer to bettors of the procedure that had taken place.
DOES WIND SURGERY AFFECT ODDS?
Not really. Horses undergo treatment and different routines all the time – and wind surgery is unlikely to severely impact a horses running on their next outing. In fact, having the operation could even improve their chances of winning a race, as they are now less likely to endure a blockage of their airflow when galloping.
It took just two days for racehorse Boite to become the first horse to win a UK and Irish race after stipulating ‘WS’ on the race card became mandatory. The eight-year-old was 7/4 in the racing betting odds to win the Seniors’ Handicap Hurdle at Taunton in 2018 and surged to victory with Gavin Sheehan on board.
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