|Wednesday 28th April 2021
Which Horses Should Punters Look Out for in 2021’s Biggest Flat Racing Events?
The National Hunt season has been spectacular, and horse racing fans have loved every minute of the action. What’s not to like about Minella Indo upsetting the odds to take the Gold Cup over Al Boum Photo or Kemboy taking the Irish Gold Cup in fine style? Of course, no one will forget Rachael Blackmore making history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National for a long time.
Still, even though NH racing isn’t quite over, the biggest races are over and done with, meaning it’s down to the flat events to continue the exceptional sporting drama. As the pinnacle of the industry, pundits and punters can’t wait to see what the most promising nags deliver on the biggest of stages. But with so many to look out for, which horses are the ones that appear to be something special?
St Mark’s Basilica
When Aiden O’Brien has a mount that he aims at the classics, like St Mark’s Basilica, you know the runner has a good chance of pushing the winner close. In fairness, the master trainer has at least two or three entries that will be at the top of the betting for the 2021 Epsom Derby, including the ante-post favourite, High Definition.
What sets St Mark’s Basilica apart from his stablemate, however, is the colt’s impressive juvenile record. He already has the Dewhurst Stakes to his name, widely considered the equivalent of the Derby for horses under three years old. To be honest, all three of O’Brien’s contenders appear as if they have bright futures ahead of them, yet St Mark’s seems as if he has an extra level that he can engage when the going gets tough. Plus, the fact that Frankie Dettori picked him over the likes of Wembley and High Definition means the Italian jockey feels as if his saddle is the best of the three.
Of course, that doesn’t make him the best of the rest, but it is hard to argue with O’Brien’s record in the premier race of the flat season. The Irishman has won 60% of the last ten editions of the event, and two on the bounce thanks to the likes of Anthony Van Dyck and Serpentine in 2019 and 2020. With stats like that, there won't be many that back against the man who has ruled flat racing with an iron fist for the past decade.
It’s hard for trainers to replace legendary horses. Henry Cecil had to do it with Frankel, and John Gosden is currently searching for the new Enable, the iconic mare that retired last year after winning 15 of 19 professional races. In addition, she only finished outside of the places once, and earned more than £10 million in the process.
Comparing runners is wrong because Indigo Girl will never be Enable, and she should never try to be as it will only lead to failure. However, it’s fair to say that the filly is probably the most anticipated horse to come out of the Gosden yard since her stablemate called it a day after the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Her performance at the St Leger Festival in 2020 was a big boost, claiming the Mary Hill on the second day of proceedings.
The yard went to the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket attempting to be the only horse to win both events since Laurens in 2017, yet she was edged out by Pretty Gorgeous in an incredibly exciting finish.
Still, the defeat hasn’t put the horse racing fraternity off this mount, least not her trainer, who is aiming to enter Indigo Girl into the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks this year.
As Brits, we tend to look at the horse racing calendar from an isolated perspective. If it’s not happening in Britain or Ireland, we don’t give the event the same build-up. One race that transcends this attitude is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. This is because it’s a devilishly difficult one-mile-and-a-half circuit that has evaded several high-quality British and Irish horses in the past.
As a result, it’s not only jockeys, trainers, and owners that anticipate taking on the French in their backyard – punters place bets in their droves too. After all, the Arc is the richest race in European horse racing, which means the market is always strong and provides lots of value for bettors, especially those who use statistics, free bets and tips in horse racing guides and reviews to their advantage. Without knowledge of the race, such as the fact that Andre Fabre is the king of Longchamp, it’s hard to come out the other side as a winner.
However, the French-bred, British-trained Wonderful Tonight is turning a lot of heads because it appears as if it could be the participant that levels the playing field for punters. Firstly, David Menuisier’s three-year-old has already won at the Arc festival after taking the Prix de Royallieu last season. She then went on to claim her second Group One in the Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot. Therefore, she’s no one-hit-wonder. Secondly, at around 20/1, she presents an amazing opportunity because there aren’t many people who believe she’s that far behind the likes of Love and Tarnawa in terms of skill and application.
There are too many to choose from – that's how healthy flat racing is in Europe and the United Kingdom. Still, if you want nail-biting tension in your races, these three powerful horses will stand you in good stead.