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Cheltenham Festival Trends – Headgear

A recent trend worth noting at the Cheltenham Festival is the performance of horses wearing, or switching to, headgear (Blinkers, Visor, Hood) for the first time.

On a race card these are indicated either next to a horse’s name or weight, with ‘b’ for blinkers, ‘v’ for visor and ‘h’ for hood, plus a ‘1’ alongside to indicate that it is for the first time. For example, ‘v1’ is a horse wearing a visor for the first time:

Racecard-Headgear

Racecard-Headgear-2

Let’s take a look at the performance of all horses wearing first time headgear at the last three Festivals – note that we are not including Cheek Pieces (‘p1’).

Cheltenham Festival 2013

There were just 15 horses wearing first-time headgear at the 2013 Festival, of which four won their respective races at odds of 16/1, 20/1, 25/1 and 25/1 – while another finished second at odds of 66/1, beaten by just a neck.

Those horses featured in 12 of the 27 races – representing just 7% of those fields (15 of 225 runners), yet they won 33% of the races (4 of 12) and their odds suggest that most of these winning/placed horses massively out-performed expectations:

HORSEHEADGEARRACE (DAY)RESULTSP
OstentationHood (h1)Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Tue)PU / 12200/1
His ExcellencyBlinkers (b1)Arkle Chase (Tue)3rd / 780/1
ROCK ON RUBY
Blinkers (b1)Champion Hurdle (Tue)2nd / 911/2
ACKERTACBlinkers (b1)Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tue)2nd / 2066/1
Restless HarryBlinkers (b1)Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tue)12th / 2040/1
Tour D’ArgentHood (h1)Coral Cup (Wed)19th / 2850/1
TimesawastinHood (h1)Coral Cup (Wed)22nd / 2850/1
FLAXEN FLAREBlinkers (b1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle  (Wed)1st / 2425/1
RuacanaVisor (v1)Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle  (Wed)7th / 2414/1
BENEFFICIENTHood (h1)Jewson Novices’ Chase (Thu)1st / 1320/1
HOLYWELLBlinkers (b1)Pertemps Final (Thu)1st / 2425/1
SAME DIFFERENCEVisor (v1)Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup  (Thu)1st / 2416/1
Vasco Du RoncerayHood (h1)Triumph Hurdle (Fri)5th / 1720/1
BrampourBlinkers (b1)County Handicap Hurdle  (Fri)21st / 2450/1
Act Of KalanisiBlinkers (b1)Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Fri)9th / 2350/1

A £20 each-way bet on all 15 horses would have returned an SP profit of £2107.50

A £40 win bet on all 15 horses would have returned an SP profit of exactly £3000

Cheltenham Festival 2014

So let’s see whether 2013 was just a statistical blip, or whether horses fitted with headgear for the first time out-performed market expectations the following year.

You would certainly have gotten off to a flying start at the 2014 Festival by just following this trend blindly. On the first day, the first two horses to wear first-time headgear (both a hood) won their respective races at odds of 33/1 and 9/1!

Firstly the unfancied Western Warhorse won the Arkle Chase at an SP of 33/1 – this is what the Racing Post had to say after the race:

“WESTERN WARHORSE came into this with BHA chase rating of just 135, having scraped home on his sole previous outing over fences at Doncaster (2m3f) in January, and was understandably dismissed in the betting. Indeed, his trainer admitted he’d been trying to persuade his owner not to run. Described as a “fruit loop” following that chasing debut success, he had a first-time hood on in order to try and relax him and it certainly worked…there was almost a sense of disbelief, including from his own connections, as he passed the post with his head in front. It’s a hard result to explain.”

Then Jezki followed up by winning the Champion Hurdle at an SP of 9/1, with the Racing Post once again noting the positive impact of the headgear:

“The more prominent tactics paid off as he does stay well, along with the application of a first-time hood, a tactic also deployed with earlier Arkle winner Western Warhorse”.

Trainer Jessica Harrington said that jockey Barry Geraghty concurred:

“Barry said the hood made a big difference. It got him to settle.”

After that start you might be disappointed to learn that there were no more winners wearing first-time headgear at the 2014 Festival. In total, there were 19 such horses, with those two winners, while two more were placed (16/1 & 6/1).

Nonetheless, those horses featured in 11 of the 27 races – representing 8% of those fields (19 of 224 runners) – but still won 18% of the races (2 of 11).

Once again, the odds of these winning/placed horses meant it would have been very profitable to back all horses fitted with first-time headgear:

HORSEHEADGEARRACE (DAY)RESULTSP
WESTERN WARHORSEHood (h1)Arkle Chase (Tue)1st / 933/1
JEZKIHood (h1)Champion Hurdle (Tue)1st / 99/1
Art of LogisticsVisor (v1)Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tue)13th / 1913/2
Close HouseBlinkers (b1)Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tue)PU / 1912/1
CreepyHood (h1)Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (Wed)14th / 1540/1
IfandbutwhynotHood (h1)Coral Cup (Wed)15th / 2820/1
ORGILGO BAYHood (h1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (Wed)3rd / 2416/1
CertificationHood (h1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (Wed)15th / 2428/1
BallyglasheenVisor (v1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (Wed)PU / 2425/1
Top WoodHood (h1)Pertemps Network Final (Thu)19th / 2316/1
Quartz De ThaixHood (h1)Pertemps Network Final (Thu)18th / 2350/1
Bless The WingsBlinkers (b1)Byrne Group Plate (Thu)15th / 2320/1
Nadiya De La VegaVisor (v1)Byrne Group Plate (Thu)PU / 2320/1
Our FatherBlinkers (b1)Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Thu)9th / 2311/1
Buddy BoleroBlinkers (b1)Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Thu)F / 239/1
LyviusBlinkers (b1)County Handicap Hurdle (Fri)8th / 2820/1
Thomas EdisonHood (h1)County Handicap Hurdle (Fri)13th / 2820/1
NED BUNTLINEHood (h1) Grand Annual Chase (Fri)  2nd / 236/1
LancettoVisor (v1)Grand Annual Chase (Fri)15th / 2350/1

A £20 each-way bet on all 19 horses would have returned an SP profit of £520

A £40 win bet on all 19 horses would have returned an SP profit of exactly £1000

We mentioned earlier that we were not including cheek pieces in this data, but it’s worth mentioning that Very Wood won the Albert Bartlett at 33/1 fitted with first-time cheek pieces.

Cheltenham Festival 2015

Finally, let’s take a look at last year’s Festival, where an increased number of 24 runners were fitted with first-time headgear (b1, v1 or h1) over the four days.

On Wednesday two 33/1 horses wearing hoods for the first-time, went close in both of the last two races. First, The Saint James finished third in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, then Modus finished second in the Champion Bumper.

And Thursday saw two winners, as first Uxizandre won the Ryanair Chase at 16/1, wearing a visor for the first time and then The Package won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at 9/1, wearing blinkers for the first time.

Actually, the other horse wearing blinkers for the first time in the Kim Muir – 33/1 Sixty Something – had kicked for home and was extending his 5 lengths lead when falling four out!

In total, horses fitted with first-time headgear featured in 16 of the 27 races – representing 8% of those fields (24 of 307 runners) and won 12.5% (2 of 16).

For a third consecutive year, the odds of the winning/placed horses with first-time headgear meant that backing them all would have been profitable, albeit less so:

HORSEHEADGEARRACE (DAY)RESULTSP
ShanganiBlinkers (b1)Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase  (Tue)PU/2450/1
Carole’s SpiritBlinkers (b1)Mares’ Hurdle (Tue)9/1514/1
Doing FineBlinkers (b1)National Hunt Chase (Tue)8/1512/1
Return SpringBlinkers (b1)National Hunt Chase (Tue)9/1520/1
Monkey KingdomHood (h1)Chaps Restaurants Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tue)PU/2033/1
BlackmailHood (h1)Coral Cup (Wed)10/2520/1
Dell’ ArcaBlinkers (b1)Coral Cup (Wed)F/2516/1
THE SAINT JAMESHood (h1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (Wed)3/2233/1
Arabian RevolutionBlinkers (b1)Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (Wed)14/227/1
MODUSHood (h1)Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Wed)
2/2333/1
Colour SquadronBlinkers (b1)JLT Novices’ Chase (Thu)8/818/1
AqalimVisor (v1)Pertemps Network Final (Thu)
5/2325/1
Knight of NoirVisor (v1)Pertemps Network Final (Thu)
9/2320/1
Bygones SovereignBlinkers (b1)Pertemps Network Final (Thu)
20/2325/1
UXIZANDREVisor (v1) Ryanair Chase (Thu)
1/1416/1
At Fishers CrossBlinkers (b1)World Hurdle (Thu)
4/1614/1
THE PACKAGEBlinkers (b1)Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup  (Thu)
1/249/1
Sixty SomethingBlinkers (b1)Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Thu)
F/2433/1
BeltorHood (h1)JCB Triumph Hurdle (Fri)6/167/1
Stars Over The SeaHood (h1)JCB Triumph Hurdle (Fri)7/1650/1
Tea For TwoHood (h1)Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle  (Fri)PU/1918/1
Vieux Lion RougeBlinkers (b1)Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Fri)10/2116/1
BordoniVisor (v1)Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Fri)PU/2166/1
GrumetiBlinkers (b1)Grand Annual Handicap ChasePU/207/1

A £20 each-way bet on all 24 horses would have returned an SP profit of £115

A £40 win bet on all 24 horses would have returned an SP profit of £120

Summary

Over the last three years at The Festival, a total of 58 horses have run with first-time headgear – with 14 of those winning or placed (24%).

Those 58 horses represented 7.5% of the total runners (756), but won 10% of the races (8 of 81). More importantly, a £20 each-way bet on all 58 horses would have returned you an SP profit of £2742.50, while a £40 win bet on all 58 would have returned you an SP profit of £4120.

However, it is possible that the increasing number of horses to whom first-time headgear is fitted for The Festival (perhaps in light of the results detailed above), is diluting the value of this trend to punters.

If we break down those 58 horses by the different types of headgear, hoods (h1) were the most profitable whether you had backed £20 each-way or £40 win only:

HEADGEARRUNNERSWINNERSPLACEDEACH-WAY PROFITWIN ONLY PROFIT
HOOD (h1)2234£1310£1720
BLINKERS (b1)2632£952.50£1440
VISOR (v1)1020£480£960

Clearly therefore, backing horses with first-time hoods to win only would have been the most profitable strategy over the three years, but it is worth noting here that there were actually no winners with first-time hoods last year.

Here is a breakdown of profit or loss (each-way & win) of each headgear by year:

HEADGEAR / BET TYPE
201320142015
HOOD (h1) / EACH-WAY
£340
£880
£90
HOOD (h1) / WIN ONLY
£640
£1360
-£280
BLINKERS (b1) / EACH-WAY
£1407.50
-£200
-£255
BLINKERS (b1) / WIN ONLY
£1760
-£200
-£120
VISOR (v1) / EACH-WAY
£360
-£160
£280
VISOR (v1) / WIN ONLY
£600
-£160
£520

If you are to follow this trend at the 2016 Festival, our recommendation is to be bold – bet ‘win only’ on ALL horses wearing these three headgear types for the first-time.

We also suggest backing them in the morning when the prices are likely to be bigger than the SP (all bookmakers offer best-price guaranteed in case the price drifts).

To make things easier, each morning of The Festival we will list all of the horses for that day’s races wearing first-time headgear, with the best odds available.