Race horses wear all types of headgear when running in order to help maintain focus. There’s nothing worse than seeing a horse spooked by something innocuous in its peripheral vision – especially if it could have been avoided had the horse donned headgear.
Headgear ranges from blinkers to hoods to shadow rolls. In this guide – the latest in our Demystifying Racing series – we’ll explain how cheekpieces work in horse racing, and whether they’re important to know about when racing betting.
What are cheekpieces?
Cheekpieces are a form of headgear that horses are allowed to wear for horse racing in the UK and Ireland. They are soft lengths of sheepskin that attach to the bridle, and run down either side of the horses head. In doing so, cheekpieces partially obscure the vision of the horse, so that it cannot see what is directly behind in its peripheral vision.
This results in the horse focusing on what it can see – namely the course in front and any impending jumps or ditches.
Being able to focus the horse not only means the jockey can ride it more easily but the horse is less likely to endanger itself. Occasionally horses can be ‘spooked’ by their surroundings while racing and cheekpieces are a useful aid to keep their minds settled during a race.
How do I know if my horse is wearing cheekpieces?
You can spot if a horse is wearing cheekpieces by checking out the Paddy Power race card before the event begins. A ‘p’ beside to the horses weight or its name will indicate that cheekpieces are being worn.
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Should I avoid betting on a horse with cheekpieces?
If you see a horse wearing cheekpieces – or notice they are stipulated on the race card – then this shouldn’t discount the horse from being bet on. After all, cheekpieces are there to help the horse focus, so in some ways you can argue it gives the horse a slight advantage. So don’t be afraid to stick with your pick when racing betting even if it is wearing cheekpieces – or any other headgear for that matter.
Do cheekpieces affect racing odds?
No. Horse racing betting odds are not affected by the presence of cheekpieces on a runner. The odds are more likely to be calculated based on a horses form, experience, age, carrying weight and experience of the jockey.
In fact, a horse wearing cheekpieces is more likely to run better. After all that’s what headgear is for. If the cheekpieces were detrimental to a horse then the trainer wouldn’t insist they wear them!
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