Seeing as the 2021 Flat Season is now well under way, I decided it was about time I gave my top picks to follow. People seemed to enjoy reading my previous list of Trainers/Jockeys to watch this year, and so we can only hope this one is as effective as the last. Whether you’re looking for a promising up and coming horse to follow for this coming year, or a slightly more experienced “ol’ reliable”, then this is the list for you!
Who will have the most impressive 3 year olds out of these two heavy-hitters?
3 year olds-
Santa Barbara – This filly only had one race at 2, where she easily won an 18 runner maiden at the Curragh by 2.5 lengths under hands and heels. More recently, she ran a very creditable 4th in the 1000 guineas at Newmarket, beaten only 1.25 lengths which was very impressive. Despite running green and hanging left towards the end, you have to remember this was only her second ever run, and to go off as joint favourite and finish a close 4th in such a high-class race is commendable. With entries in the Irish 1000 guineas, Epsom Oaks and the Irish Oaks, it’s clear to see that Aidan O’Brien and his team think a lot of her. Out of Camelot, who has produced a number of top class horses, it looks as though she will develop into a very smart middle distance horse and should have a profitable 3 year old campaign.
Aldaary – The William Haggas trained horse could do no wrong on his first two runs at the back end of last year. Winning both by 3.25 and 9 lengths respectively, he looked a cut above the opposition in those races and looks destined for great things this year. Aldaary has already earned a rating of 90 following those runs and looks especially suited to a testing surface, having earned both wins on soft and heavy going. Despite having a great turn of foot, breeding suggests he will be suited by further than he has raced on to date, and who knows, he could be a future guineas horse in the making! This is a horse definitely worth keeping tabs on this coming season.
Beheld – One run and one win for this 3 year old. Although not necessarily convincing in her debut race, she did get her head in front, beating the Clive Cox trained Whiskey ‘N’ Chips by a head at Newbury. She showed a great turn of foot to get up late following a poor start, and with that experience under her belt, looks sure to progress on the flat this year. She is by the superstar that is Frankel, so of course it pays to take note, and two of the horses that finished behind her on debut have since won races. The pedigree for this horse is strong, and it looks as though she will be a smart middle distance horse in the future.
Fancy Man – This Richard Hannon trained horse is out of Pride of Dubai, and enjoyed a fruitful 2 year old campaign. A debut win followed by a 0.5 length 2nd behind the useful ‘Cobh’ at Salisbury confirmed the initial promise, which was backed up by a convincing win in a Listed event at Haydock 2 weeks later. Stepping up slightly in trip, Fancy Man reappeared last month at Newmarket in the Feilden Stakes, a Listed race over 1m1f. Finishing 5th of 9, some 9.5 lengths behind the winner, he was outpaced when it really mattered, but stayed on inside the final 110 yards. This was his first run in 7 months, and it is probable that the going didn’t necessarily suit that day. He looks like a soft ground horse and there is no reason why he can’t cement a place as a consistent Group level horse..
Uncle Bryn – This colt achieved back to back wins on the all-weather for John Gosden last year, and took a marked step forward with his recent 3rd in a Listed race on his turf debut at Epsom last month. Despite being “coltish”, it was only towards the end of the race where he got tired. With more experience and settling better this horse has a lot of potential. He was only beaten around 2 lengths in the end too and kept on well at the one pace approaching the line. He is a half-brother to a couple of winners and was in the ante-post market for the 2021 classics after his debut. Sired by Sea The Stars and sure to come on from his recent run, this is a middle distance horse worth keeping tabs on this flat season.
Saffron Beach – 2 from 2 at 2, this horse was mightily impressive, and continued in similar form this year following a break. A Group 3 win on just her second start followed up by a 2nd in the Nell Gwyn and then the 1000 Guineas was very impressive, and the horse looks to be improving now upped in trip. A staying on 2nd in the 1000 Guineas points towards an extra furlong being her optimum trip, and with entries in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks, trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam clearly thinks a lot of her too. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes from here, whether she will run again before one of the entries mentioned, but she’s sure to run a big race wherever she goes. This is reflected by the 104 RPR she has achieved thus far.
Pretty Gorgeous – 12121 and a model of consistency for J P O’Brien. A 5 length debut victory followed up by a close 2nd in a Group 3 proved that this was no basic handicap horse. Improving with every run, she’s now won a Group 3, placed 2nd in a Group 2 and then most recently won the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, with recent 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth behind in 3rd. On a variety of Good, Soft and Yielding ground over both 7 furlongs and 1 mile, she looks a versatile horse who shouldn’t have stopped progressing yet. An RPR of 114 outlines JP’s intentions for her this year with entries again in the Irish 1000 Guineas, Irish Oaks and Epsom Oaks. Still just 3 years old, this horse could have a very bright future if picking up where she left off last year and should not be underestimated in any field.
Fev Rover – A personal favourite of mine, and that’s not just me being biased! Although taking three attempts to break his maiden tag, he did it in good style in a Listed race at Sandown last year, followed by a Group 2 win and Group 1 4th in France. A creditable 3rd by 1.25 lengths in the 1000 Guineas recently after a 210 day break confirmed any doubts about his ability and he should now kick on again this season. Entries in the Irish 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes at Ascot confirms trainer Richard Fahey’s intentions with him, and he looks a nice prospect going forward. Running over 6 furlongs, 7 furlongs and 1 mile on a variety of ground from G to Firm to heavy, he should be competitive wherever he runs this year. It is worth remembering he is still 3!
Now on to some more experienced horses it should pay to keep tabs on this coming season:
Space Blues – Trained by flat horse master Charlie Appelby for Godolphin, this 7 furlong specialist looks set to have another very impressive campaign. After winning the Prix Maurice De Gheest (a career best) and the Lennox Stakes (by 2 lengths) in fine style last year, he kicked off 2021 with another win over in Saudi Arabia before underperforming in the Al Quoz Sprint in Meydan a month later. This was over a trip of 6 furlongs which didn’t seem to suit so well, and trainer Charlie Appelby said that he over-raced in the early parts of the race. That run is best forgotten about, and returned to 7 furlongs, he should enjoy a number of wins this year. There are no pending entries as yet, but a similar campaign must be on the cards.
Wonderful Tonight – A David Menuisier horse with bags of potential who was lightly raced as a 2 year old, but really came into her own last year. Winning over distances of 1m 2f, 1m 4f and 1m 6f, she proved her versatility, whilst taking the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot on her final start with a very commanding performance. Although evidently favoured by soft/heavy ground, she seems to have a great attitude and plenty of speed to go with her stamina. Could she be a potential Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner in the making, emulating the likes of Treve and Enable? Entered in the Coronation Cup amongst others, it seems she is thought very highly of at home, and her performances have backed that up thus far. It remains to be seen where her limit lies, but if continuing in the same vain as last year, she could be a very special horse to follow!
Tarnawa – Unbeaten in 4 starts in 2020 and with the Breeders Cup to her name, this 5 year old is clearly very talented. A brilliant back to front performance to beat Magical by 1 length in the Breeders Cup was mightily impressive, and an RPR of 116 puts her right up there with some of the best in the world at the moment. Effective anywhere from 1 mile to 1m 4f, on ground varying from Good to Heavy to Yielding, this horse is a force to be reckoned with and should not be taken lightly. Out of the very impressive Shamardal who also thrived over similar distances, she is another who we could see at Longchamp come October.
Glen Shiel – He started the season as an out and out handicapper, but took everyone by surprise dropped to 6 furlongs when finishing an impressive 2nd in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock, and then bettering that with a win in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot under Hollie Doyle. Prior to those runs, he had some very good wins in handicap company, but nobody quite expected the improvement shown towards the end of the year. Although 7 years old, it is likely there is still further improvement in him, being out of Pivotal who’s progeny seem to improve with age (Addyebb). He currently has entries in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot, so it remains to be seen where his limitation lie and how he gets on in Group events this time around. He’s definitely one who may be overlooked again.
That’s all for my tips for this year’s flat season. Let’s hope they can win some big races and go from strength to strength throughout the year. Is there anyone you think I should’ve included in my list? Feel free to let me know in the comments down below! Fingers crossed the horses return a nice tidy profit. But most importantly, return safe from each race in which they compete.