In any big race you will usually see one or two horses wearing blinkers, some who always wear them and others who may be wearing them for the first time. But what are blinkers for and how do they affect the odds of a horse winning or losing the race?
Blinkers were developed centuries ago when horses were mainly used to pull carts and carriages. Drivers found that by blinkering the horse so he could only see where he was going, he would be less distracted and less likely to spook at something he had seen from the corner of his eye; an event which can be disastrous when the horse is pulling a vehicle! Some horses would also be frightened of the carriage or cart following them and because blinkers inhibit their ability to see behind them, they would instantly calm the horse and enable it to be a better worker.
Since then, not much has changed. Blinkers are still essentially applied to help the horse concentrate and to reduce distractions from other horses galloping up beside them. Umbrellas, buggies and big hats in the crowd can affect them too. For some horses, particularly if the trainer believes they are not racing to their full potential, applying blinkers to the bridle can help the horse significantly by applying its concentration and keep it focused on the job at hand. Keep in mind it does not have a positive effect on all racehorses some can become panicked by their lack of vision and feel claustrophobic causing them to bolt off like a rocket. This can be a negative reaction in medium to long races as it can cause the horse to burn out too early and have no sprint left at the end of the race.
If you know your racehorses and have noticed a particular horse has been blinkered for the first time you could be setting yourself up for a big win. Bet the horse accordingly and assume it might have a positive spin if it has been consistently failing without them. If you see a horse which is being run in blinkers for the first time and is also being run at a different distance from its usual races then this should sound alarm bells for you. At best it will be an experiment so either look at laying the horse off if the odds are right or just steer away from it altogether. As you get to know your horses, trainers and races you will notice other horse training aids which change from time to time. Martingales, flash or sheepskin nose bands and bits can all change from race to race and when you see such a change with a little research and knowledge you could be setting yourself up for a good win, either with a bet or a lay on that horse.
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