Looking Back At The Best Horses From 2021
It has been an exceptional year for horse racing, with no shortage of stars making their mark around the world.
There have been exciting stories from all four corners of the globe, with trailblazing three-year-olds taking the fight to the older horses in the featured race of the season at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. We can’t forget to mention Medina Spirit, who despite all the controversy came victorious in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, Medina passed away earlier this month.
But, despite Medina Spirit, which horses have been the stars of the season in 2021?
It would be hard to see past the horse that many had written off going into the Classic at Del Mar. Many felt that the extra experience that Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie and Medina Spirit had would ultimately be pivotal in the lucrative Grade 1. However, it wasn’t to be, as Knicks Go answered all questions that were hanging over him.
It was surprising to see the Brad Cox-trained horse overlooked purely because he hadn’t won over the Classic distance, especially considering that he waltzed home in the Pegasus World Cup earlier in the season. You can review the results of this race on the TwinSpires website.
He had the race much to himself at Del Mar, as he was able to set the pace, and none of his rivals were able to catch up. There is just one more run left for Knicks Go, as he comes up against Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good in his defence of the Pegasus World Cup in January.
Back at the start of 2021, Charlie Appleby admitted that Yibir could have been one of his main chances of Classic success in the United Kingdom. Of course, the trainer still had success in the Derby with Adayar and St Leger with Hurricane Lane, but his main globe-trotting success story of 2021 came in the form of Yibir. The three-year-old started his season with a third in the Classic Trial, before getting Group 3 success at Newmarket with the Bahrain Trophy.
Votiguer Stakes success soon followed at York, before he travelled over to the United States for some more lucrative wins. The first of those came at Belmont Park with a victory in the Jockey Club Derby, before he eclipsed that performance at the Breeders’ Cup by winning the Turf. His strong finish speed was once again key, as he bypassed Broome close to the line. He could be set for a huge 2022 campaign. Appleby will likely look at potential races early in the New Year, but a run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is hard to rule out at present.
When it comes to the star female performer of the year, it would be extremely difficult to see past Letruska. The five-year-old may have ended her season in disappointing fashion, as she could only finish tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but six wins from seven starts before that is a staggering record. She picked up just under $2 million in prize money throughout the 2021 season, which included four Grade 1 wins.
The first of those came back in April as she won the Apple Blossom, before quickly adding the Ogden Phipps just a couple of months later. Grade 2 success then followed at Churchill Downs in the Fleur de Lis Stakes, before back-to-back Grade 1s before the Breeders’ Cup made her the one to beat. Her success in the Spinster remains her best run of the season, but she was unable to build on that when coming undone at Del Mar, finishing 32 lengths behind shock 50/1 winner Marche Lorraine. Regardless, she enjoyed an excellent season, and she could be set for another big year in 2022.