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Established Series Stars returning in 2021

21 Jan 2021

We take a look at horses who made a splash last season returning to the Series this year

SPRINT

OXTED

Age next year: 5. Trainer: Roger Teal

One of the most memorable images of 2020 was trainer Roger Teal sprinting after his stable star, Oxted, after he had given him a landmark first Group 1 triumph in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

Perhaps Teal will invest in a pair of running shoes for 2021 because it seems unlikely to be Oxted’s last win at the highest level.

The gelding beat a top-class field with authority at Headquarters and also ran a cracker on his next start when beaten about a length into fifth in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint on Champions Day at Ascot.

He travelled best of all but the combination of a 98-day absence and soft ground seemed to find him out in the closing stages. Perhaps crucially, he had missed an intended outing in the Sprint Cup at Haydock in between Newmarket and Ascot because of a dirty scope.

Oxted has still had only ten runs and, with possibly still even more to come, he seems certain to be a force in all of the summer’s big sprints. The Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot in June, July Cup, Sprint Cup and Champions Sprint are all obvious targets.

MILE

PALACE PIER

Age next year: 4. Trainer: John Gosden

Many of last season’s top milers, such as Kameko, Pinatubo, Mohaather and Circus Maximus, have been retired to stud. That can only help make life easier for Palace Pier, who was arguably better than all that quartet and will set the bar high for last campaign’s top two-year-olds.

Palace Pier created a good impression when winning both his starts over 7f as a two-year-old and picked up from where he left off when an emphatic winner on his return over a mile at Newcastle on his return.

The Kingman colt was upped markedly in class a fortnight later when tackling the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot but was equal to the task, staying on strongly under Frankie Dettori to overhaul Pinatubo and Wichita in the closing stages.

Palace Pier followed up in, the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and was 8-11 favourite to retain his unbeaten record – and complete a notable Group 1 hat-trick – in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day. He was not at his best in finishing third to The Revenant but time may show that afternoon was merely a bump in the road.

MIDDLE DISTANCE

LOVE

Age next year: 4. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Love is all you need. Love conquers all. Love blossoms again. The headline writers had an open goal with Love in 2020 and took full advantage.

The Galileo filly hit the deck running, cruising to a four-and-a-quarter length victory in the rearranged QIPCO 1000 Guineas on her reappearance at Newmarket in early June. She could hardly have won any easier and, bred for middle distances, it was no surprise that she went off 11/10 favourite for the Investec Oaks at Epsom a month later.

Her supporters never had much to worry about as she powered away to win by nine lengths – one of the widest-margin wins in the race – and she was similarly impressive next time when winning the Darley Yorkshire Oaks by five lengths at York.

Love was a leading fancy for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the back of all her efforts but connections ruled her out when the ground became deep and she did not run again.

It will be fascinating to see how she is campaigned in 2021, with races like the Coronation Cup, Coral-Eclipse and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes all possible options before the end of July.

FILLIES & MARES

WONDERFUL TONIGHT

Age next year: 4  Trainer: David Menuisier

David Menuisier had never had an Ascot winner of any description before this year’s QIPCO British Champions Day and described the track as his “nemesis” in the build-up.

It may be his favourite racecourse now, though, because his stable star Wonderful Tonight shone in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. After hitting the front about three furlongs out she kept on strongly to win by two-and-a-half lengths from Dame Malliott.

Wonderful Tonight had landed the Group 1 Qatar Prix De Royallieu over almost 1m6f  at Longchamp just a fortnight before having also won a Group 3 over 1m4f Deauville earlier in her campaign.

All four of her career wins have been achieved on soft or heavy ground, and she’s clearly a potent force when the going is deep. However, it’s too early to determine how vital underfoot conditions are to her, with Menuisier believing it is not a big factor.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a long-term target for Wonderful Tonight but there will be plenty of time to see her in QIPCO British Champions Series races before then. The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes seems a logical target, especially now that her trainer’s Ascot hoodoo is over.

LONG DISTANCE

TRUESHAN

Age next year: 5. Trainer: Alan King

Alan King has established himself as one of Britain’s top National Hunt trainers since taking out a licence in 1999 but he’s no one-trick pony and has becoming an emerging force on the Flat in recent years.

King clearly has one of the best stayers in training in In Trueshan, a gelding who should play a leading role in the Long Distance category of the Champions Series in 2021.

Trueshan has done nothing but progress in his 11 races and relished stepping up to 2m for the first time on Champions Day when routing his rivals in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Partnered by Hollie Doyle, he was always travelling strongly and surged seven-and-a-half lengths clear after leading a furlong out.

His task was made easier by Stradivarius, the hot favourite, running below-par but there is substance to the form with Search For A Song, the dual Irish St leger winner, chasing him home, and Fujaira Prince, the Ebor hero, third.

Trueshan acts well on soft ground and his connections are unlikely to grumble if we have a wet summer in 2021. Equally, he has also shown his effectiveness on good going.