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A horse will generally be on the bridle for most of a race. In the early stages the horse will be in contact with the jockey through the reins and bit. The jockey will be able to dictate the pace using the riding equipment and the horse will not be stretched. Unfit horses will come off the bridle before fit horses.
A horse with plenty of running is on the bridle. The jockey can exert pressure through the tack and the horse has the capacity to respond, and a horse on the bridle will generally have a better chance of staying in touch than a horse off the bridle. As horses come off the bridle the complexion of a race can change.
If we back a horse we want to see it stay on the bridle as long as possible. Such a horse still has reserves of energy and fitness to contend, A horse can be running with plenty left in the tank and be on the bridle but then quickly run out of energy and be off the bridle. Racing commentators often announce a horse being on the bridle because winning the race is still possible.
When betting in running punters will want to back horses on the bridle so the price shortens. The jockey is not working hard to maintain his mount’s position while other runners are dropping back throughout the field.
Distance is a major factor in keeping a horse on the bridle, as the horse could have the stamina to be competitive over long distances. Other horses suited to shorter races will come off the bridle while other runners are still on.
In-running bettors will back horses on the bridle so there will be more backers than layers. The price of a horse on the bridle will fall until it comes off the bridle and the betting changes. The jockey is in control so can push the horse in the closing stages of a race.