It has been another eventful 12 months for racing – both on and off the track.
Rachael Blackmore rightly took the headlines on it, following her stunning effort at Cheltenham and historic Grand National success, while Charlie Appleby enjoyed an incredible few months on the Flat. The Robbie Dunne bullying case saw the year conclude on a low note, and back in February racing was rocked when a picture of Gordon Elliott sat on a dead horse emerged on social media.
We reflect on 2021:
:: Prince Khalid Abdullah, owner and breeder of dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable and the great Frankel among his legion of Juddmonte stars, dies aged 83.
:: Grand National-winning rider David Mullins announces his retirement from the saddle at the age of 24.
:: First Flow wins the Clarence House Chase at Ascot for jockey David Bass and trainer Kim Bailey – a first Grade One success for Bailey since Master Oats won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1995.
:: Honeysuckle extends her unbeaten run to 10 as she claims a second Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Appreciate It, Energumene, Monkfish, Kemboy, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Chacun Pour Soi mop up Grade Ones for Willie Mullins, with the Closutton maestro winning nine races overall at the two-day Leopardstown extravaganza.
:: The David Egan-ridden Mishriff sees off American challengers Charlatan and Knicks Go – subsequent winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – to land the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup, in Riyadh for trainers John and Thady Gosden.
:: The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board launches an investigation after a picture of Gordon Elliott sat on a dead horse on his gallops is published on social media. Six days later the trainer is given a 12-month ban, with six months suspended.
:: The Cheltenham Festival goes ahead behind closed doors due to Covid restrictions, with Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead dominating proceedings, kicking off with Honeysuckle’s demolition job in the Champion Hurdle – the first of six winners at the meeting for Blackmore, who makes history as the first woman to be leading rider at the meeting.
:: De Bromhead goes on to complete a notable clean sweep of the main events, sending out Put The Kettle On to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase under Aidan Coleman before the Jack Kennedy-ridden Minella Indo just denies Blackmore on A Plus Tard in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
:: Shishkin proves the highlight of just four British-trained winners as he lands the Arkle for Nicky Henderson, with the drubbing at the hands of the Irish prompting plenty of debate.
:: Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, founder of the Shadwell Estates empire and owner of greats such as Nashwan, Salsabil and Dayjur, dies aged 75.
:: Haqeeqy wins the Lincoln at Doncaster for the Gosden team and 7lb claimer Benoit de la Sayette, who looked set for big things before being banned for six months for a failed drugs test.
:: Blackmore becomes an international superstar as she becomes the first female jockey to win the Grand National when Minella Times beats fellow De Bromhead inmate Balko Des Flos in the Aintree showpiece.
:: Richard Johnson, a four-times champion jump jockey, surprises the racing world as he announces his immediate retirement after partnering Brother Tedd to finish third for long-time ally Philip Hobbs in a handicap chase at Newton Abbot.
:: Freewhelin Dylan stuns his Fairyhouse rivals as he makes virtually all to win the Irish Grand National at odds of 150-1 for trainer Dermot McLoughlin and jockey Ricky Doyle.
:: Amateur rider Lorna Brooke dies aged 37 after sustaining injuries in a fall at Taunton in early April.
:: Honeysuckle remains unbeaten in taking the Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. But the Mullins team stars again, winning 19 of the 40 races at the five-day fixture.
:: Poetic Flare wins the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in a three-way photo, seeing off Master Of The Seas and Lucky Vega for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning. Mother Earth wins the 1000 Guineas for Aidan O’Brien and Frankie Dettori.
:: Medina Spirit is the winner on the day in the Kentucky Derby for Bob Baffert, although the result is thrown into doubt days later when it transpires the colt tested positive for a banned substance, with the case yet to be fully resolved.
:: The O’Brien-trained St Mark’s Basilica kicks off what is to be an unbeaten three-year-old campaign with victory in the French 2000 Guineas.
:: Racegoers return to English tracks for the first time since December as the easing of coronavirus restrictions mean limited crowds are permitted.
:: Adam Kirby has the last laugh at Epsom as he steers 16-1 shot Adayar to victory in the Cazoo Derby. Replaced on his intended mount John Leeper in midweek in favour of Dettori, Kirby in turn replaced Oisin Murphy aboard Charlie Appleby’s charge, who powered home to win the premier Classic by four and a half lengths.
:: Snowfall demolishes her Oaks rivals in the hands of Dettori, winning the Classic by 16 lengths in very heavy rain.
:: Subjectivist scuppers Stradivarius’ bid for a fourth Gold Cup victory at Royal Ascot, with the Mark Johnston-trained winner coming home five lengths clear of Princess Zoe, with the former champ back in fourth.
:: Bolger sparks fierce debate as he outlines his fears of drug use in Irish racing, claiming “there will be a Lance Armstrong” in the sport in a newspaper interview, with an Irish parliamentary committee later announcing a series of meetings with relevant parties to discuss the issue.
:: St Mark’s Basilica trounces older rivals in the Eclipse at Sandown, cementing his position at the top of the three-year-old tree so far.
:: After heavy rain ruled out a Royal Ascot run, Starman finally gets his chance to shine as he lands the July Cup at Newmarket.
:: Coolmore announces the death of supersire Galileo at the age of 23, with the stallion leaving what owner John Magnier described as a “lasting legacy” in his many sons and daughters.
:: The sport is shaken again as an episode of Panorama entitled ‘The Dark Side of Horse Racing’ is broadcast, including covert footage filmed inside one of the UK’s biggest abattoirs – which it is claimed showed rules surrounding the slaughter of horses being breached.
:: Adayar outbattles Mishriff to win the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – the first Derby winner to do the double since Galileo in 2001.
:: Sprinting sensation Battaash is retired after failing in his bid to win a fifth successive King George Stakes at Goodwood.
:: Mishriff smashes the Juddmonte International field to win by six lengths at York.
:: Stradivarius returns to winning form with a popular, if narrow, success over Spanish Mission in the Yorkshire Cup.
:: American raider Golden Pal flops as Winter Power makes it a local win for Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby in the Nunthorpe.
:: Hurricane Lane shakes off stamina doubts to win the St Leger as the 8-11 favourite for Appleby and William Buick.
:: Stradivarius raises the Town Moor roof as he concedes weight all round to win the Doncaster Cup.
:: Elliott returns to the training ranks as his suspension expires.
:: Connections call time of the career of top two-mile chaser Altior, with the 11-year-old bowing out as the winner of 10 Grade Ones.
:: St Mark’s Basilica retires to stud having won the Irish Champion Stakes earlier in the month to round out an unbeaten three-year-old campaign.
:: German raider Torquator Tasso creates a huge shock in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, triumphing at odds of 72-1
:: Another big win for Appleby, with Native Trail rounding out his unbeaten juvenile campaign with victory in the Dewhurst Stakes.
:: Trevor Hemmings, one of jump racing’s greatest supporters and the owner of three Grand National winners, dies at the age of 86.
:: Murphy is crowned champion jockey for a third successive year after a battle with Buick, although his triumph is overshadowed by reports of an incident in a pub the night before he was forced to give up rides at Newmarket after failing a racecourse breathalyser test the previous week.
:: Sealiway wins the Champion Stakes at Ascot for Cedric Rossi, while Baaeed lands the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for William Haggas and Jim Crowley.
:: Appleby dominates at the Breeders’ Cup meeting, saddling Yibir to win the Turf, Space Blues to lift the Mile and Modern Games in the Juvenile Turf. The Godolphin handler was also crowned champion trainer for the first time.
:: Verry Elleegant wins the Melbourne Cup for Chris Waller and jockey James McDonald, with the European challenge severely limited by revised veterinary requirements and travel restrictions.
:: Gin On Lime wins an incredible two-horse race at Cheltenham, with Blackmore just managing to maintain the partnership at the second-last as her only rival, My Drogo, crashed out in dramatic scenes.
:: A Plus Tard and Blackmore hack up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
:: Robbie Dunne is banned for 18 months, with three months suspended, after the BHA disciplinary panel rules he bullied and harassed Bryony Frost.
:: Japanese sensation Loves Only You closes out her career with victory in the Hong Kong Cup. Local star Golden Sixty also sets a new benchmark with a 16th consecutive career win in the Mile. Pyledriver runs a huge race in the Vase.
:: A tragic end for Medina Spirit, who dies suddenly after working at Santa Anita.
:: Group One-winning trainers Frederic, Cedric and Charley Rossi along with Charley Rossi’s wife, the jockey Jessica Marcialis, are reported to have been arrested in France as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged equine doping.
:: David Elsworth, trainer of the great Desert Orchid and so many others, announces his retirement from the training ranks at the age of 82.
:: Murphy announces he is to relinquish his licence with immediate effect to “focus on my rehabilitation”, pending a BHA disciplinary hearing into an alleged breach of Covid-19 travel protocols and two failed racecourse breathalyser tests.
:: Freddy Tylicki wins his High Court claim against Graham Gibbons for negligent riding which resulted in a fall that left him with life-changing injuries.
:: Tornado Flyer wins the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase as a 28-1 outsider at Kempton Park for Willie and Danny Mullins.