CHEEK pieces are not just used to make racehorses look like Santa Claus over Christmas. They can and do make a difference for certain runners, evident in the improvement of Alfolk (AUS), who won Saturday’s Gr3 Lebelo Sprint over 1000m in decisive fashion.

This was Alfolk’s third win from five starts racing with cheek pieces fitted, and winning trainer Mike de Kock told Turf Talk:  “It’s all about trial and error. Some horses respond to full blinkers, others to half cups and others, like Alfolk, to cheek pieces.

“I guess it’s like seeing sheep on both sides of your face, but cheek pieces don’t fully cover the eyes and head like blinkers and the horse sees more than when the blinkers are on.”

The winning photo shows Alfolk’s right cheek piece having moved away from its original position in line with his eyes and De Kock said: ‘It could’ve blown out of position in the wind late.”

This was confirmed by jockey Anthony Delpech,who said: “He was looking around a little bit at the end. When I went for my whip he wanted to go to the other side. He’s still got quirks about him but I liked the manner in which he does it. He wants to win now. He puts his ears back and says, let’s go win the race.”

De Kock added: “With these young horses the more racing they have and the stronger they get the better they’ll do at sprints. Sometimes it’s very hard to beat the old sprinting hard-knockers but he’s certainly a horse on the up. He’s won a G3 today but I think he’s got a real Group race in him.

“I’m lucky this year. I’ve got a nice bunch of sprinters, a nice bunch of three-year-olds, but certainly I think the Cape Flying Championship’s got to be on the cards.”

De Kock won the 2015 CFC with Alboran Sea, who edged out Captain of All in a nailbiting finish.

Alfolk is a son of 2004 Australian Horse Of The Year Lohnro, who won 11 Gr1 races between 1100m and 2040m. He races for Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai.

Photo: Alfolk wins Lebelo Sprint (JC Photos).

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