When you’re next horse race betting you might see that some of the horses have covers over the side of their eyes. These are called blinkers – but what are they all about?
Well, Paddy Power is here to explain what blinkers are, as part of our Demystifying Racing series for newcomers to the world of horse racing.
If you’re planning to bet on racing and see a horse wearing blinkers then check out this guide for everything you need to know.
WHAT ARE BLINKERS?
Horse racing is crammed with weird terminology and features that can sometimes bamboozle new punters. And one of the oddities of racing are blinkers.
Blinkers are semi-circular cups that sit around the eyes of the horse. They are attached to the horses’ bridle and come in various shapes, sizes and colours. However, the aim of blinkers is always the same: to focus the horse on looking forward.
WHY DO HORSES WEAR BLINKERS?
Horses have a wide peripheral vision because their eyes are on the side of their heads.
For most race horses this has no impact on their running, but for others they can be ‘spooked’ by the racecourse surroundings. This is especially pertinent for young race horses that aren’t experienced with the environment of a racecourse, where thousands of people are mingling about, shouting and screaming.
The blinkers shut off the peripheral vision of the horse, so that they can only look forward. This means they can concentrate more on the ground, fences and hurdles that are in front of them.
If a horse is easily distracted by its surroundings then blinkers can act as a vital piece of safety equipment.
DO BLINKERS AFFECT HORSE RACING BETTING?
A horse wearing blinkers will be identified on a race card, just like if they’re carrying extra weight, a tongue tie, cheekpiece or any other headgear. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that blinkers will affect racing betting odds.
In fact, blinkers are likely to help a horse rather than suggest they have no chance of winning. After all, blinkers are used to calm the horse down and realign its focus, so it can run its best race.
Some horse racing betting punters make the mistake of assuming a horse is wild or temperamental if its wearing blinkers—but that simply isn’t the case. Actually, the headgear will almost certainly aid the horse when it runs and potentially help it cruise to victory.
FAMOUS HORSES TO WEAR BLINKERS
There have been plenty of successful horses to run with blinkers down the years. Teleprompter ran rampant in the UK during the 1980s and even won the Arlington Million in the United States wearing blinkers. Irish horse Foinavon won the 1967 Grand National with blinkers, while Triple Crown winner Secretariat ran with blinkers in a famous checkered pattern in the 1970s.
Remarkably, nine of the 10 runnings of Cheltenham’s Ultima Handicap Chase between 2013 and 2022 featured winners who wore some form of headgear.
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