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Best horse racing moments of 2021

A look back at horse racing in 2021

It has been a historic year in the world of horse racing in 2021, with glass ceilings shattered and new stars of the track being created. 

Here we take a look back at some of the best horse racing moments of the past 12 months and there is only really one place to start.

Rachael Blackmore wins the Grand National

“I don’t feel male or female right now – I don’t even feel human. This is just unbelievable.”  

Those were the words uttered by Blackmore shortly after crossing the finishing line as the 32-year-old became the first female rider to win the Grand National.

Not only was Blackmore’s victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase undoubtedly the best horse racing moment of 2021, it is sure to go down as one of the highlights of racing history.

Following her exploits at the Cheltenham Festival, her mount Minella Times was sent off at 11/1 for the 4m2f contest and there was barely a moments doubt that victory would be theirs once the duo took the lead approaching the second last.

Blackmore and Minella Times galloped home six and a half lengths clear of their stablemate Balko Des Flos in second and as only the 20th woman to ride in the race, National Velvet was no longer a work of fiction as the race that stops the nation had its show-stopping result to catapult racing to the front pages.   

Still lightly raced, it is not out of the question that Minella Times defends his title in 2022 and he can be found at 20/1 in the ante-post Grand National market.

‘This is just unbelievable, just unbelievable’

Rachael Blackmore reacts to making history in the #GrandNational with Minella times!

Watch LIVE: @ITV
https://t.co/oq2c9WpAJe#ITVRacing #GrandNational pic.twitter.com/ul0nasbsyZ

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 10, 2021

Adayar does the Derby/ King George double

Having opened up at a huge 40/1, Adayar was backed into 16/1 as he came home in front of better-fancied stablemates Hurricane Lane and One Ruler to give Charlie Appleby his second Derby in June.

The Frankel colt was given an enterprising ride up the inside rail off his stand-in rider Adam Kirby and the popular Newmarket native was given a thunderous welcome as he returned to the winner’s enclosure following his first Classic-winning steer.

No horse had won the Derby and then gone on to land the King George VI Stakes at Ascot in the same year since Galileo in 2001 and Adayar provided one of the best horse racing moments of the year when matching the Coolmore legend’s efforts in July.

Sent off at 9/4, he took the lead at the two-furlong pole and refused to be past in the closing stages, coming home the best part of two lengths ahead of his nearest rivals in a commanding display.

Things didn’t go to plan at the back-end of the season with the three-year-old far too keen on soft ground in both the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Champions Stakes but he has the chance to redeem himself next year.

An early price of 12/1 is available for Appleby’s charge to make a successful trip to Longchamp for the 2022 Arc in the autumn.

For Appleby, Adayar’s victories were the crowning moments of a fine 2021 where he won 43 Group or Graded races at both home and abroad and operated at a whopping 29 percent strike-rate.

He is now the overwhelming number one trainer on Godolphin’s roster of worldwide handlers.

The Queen of Cheltenham

Blackmore makes our best horse racing moments list for a second time thanks to her six-timer at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Tipperary rider picked up the Festival’s leading rider trophy for the first time as she cemented herself as one of the biggest names in sport and the undoubted queen of the weighing room.

Riding at least one winner every day, all six were Grade 1 prizes, with the only low point of a fantastic week for the Killenaule native coming when choosing runner-up A Plus Tard over the winner Minella Indo in the Gold Cup.   

She bagged the week’s first major prize when steering the unstoppable Honeysuckle to Champion Hurdle glory and was soon a regular in the winner’s enclosure with breathtaking front-running rides on Chevelely Park-owned pair Allaho and Sir Gerhard two of the highlights of the week.

Allaho storms home to win the Ryanair Chase!@rachaelblackmor & @WillieMullinsNH are having an incredible week at @CheltenhamRaces!#ITVRacing#CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/ruiVDiOonb

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 18, 2021

King Henry of Knockeen

It wasn’t just Blackmore that was claiming all the headlines at Prestbury Park as her long-time ally Henry de Bromhead was lifting the top trainer prize for the first time.

The Irish handler saddled six winners over the course of the four-day meeting and also became the first man to saddle the winner of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at one Cheltenham Festival.

Things got even better for the Waterford man when Minella Times landed the Grand National in what we’ve already identified as one of our best horse racing moments of the year.

He was also responsible for the preparation of runner-up Balko De Flos, achieving another historic one-two in one of the biggest of races around in an unprecedented four-week period of top-class training.

His tally of Cheltenham Festival winners now stands at 15 and he looks certain to add to that in 2022.

He is responsible for three of the top six in the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, including current favourite A Plus Tard, and rivals queuing up to take on the all-conquering Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle are few and far between.

Appleby’s amazing American adventure

Having captured Group honours at home all season, Appleby capped a fine 2021 by bringing home three trophies from the Breeders’ Cup.

Yibir picked up the Breeders’ Cup Turf after a win for Space Blues in the Mile to record a historic double for the Moulton Park Stables chief on the Saturday of the two-day global event.

However, it was Modern Games’ triumph in the Friday feature, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, that provided one of the most dramatic horse racing moments of the year.

Modern Games’ stablemate Albahr was ruled out of the contest when meeting trouble in the starting stalls and it looked like a double whammy of bad fortune for Appleby when Modern Games was deemed to have forced his way through his own starting gate and was scratched from the contest by the Stewards.

However, Modern Games was actually released by the starter as so he could escape any harm at the hands of his stricken stablemate and following plenty of deliberation and a thorough assessment from the vets, was reinstated into the line-up.

We all know someone who celebrates a winner like Charlie Appleby

Great to see the @godolphin trainer record his 4⃣th @BreedersCup victory following Modern Games’ stunning win in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf#BC21 | @DelMarRacing pic.twitter.com/kkTGuj9FEg

— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 6, 2021

Twenty minutes later and the pre-race favourite was seen galloping clear to bring home the bacon but there was a sting in the tail for punters as Modern Games was said to be running for ‘prize money only’ under local rules and therefore all bets on the winner would be void.

Rather than a raucous reception for the winner, Modern Games and Appleby were welcomed back into the winner’s enclosure by a chorus of boos from the frustrated and out of pocket Del Mar natives.

Appleby will be hoping Modern Games can develop into a Classic contender in 2022 and he is 12/1 for success in the 2000 Guineas.

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