Horse Racing Calendar: Must-See Events in 2021

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The Triple Crown is back in its rightful order and there’s another Breeders’ Cup on the way. 2021 is expected to be huge and you can keep on top of it all with our horse racing calendar.

From the Pegasus World Cup to the Kentucky Derby, the Arlington Million to the Classic, we have information on all the big horse races coming up this year.

Taking Advantage of the Horse Racing Calendar

Right from January onwards, the major horse races are coming up thick and fast. Online horse betting reaches a peak in May when the Kentucky Derby takes place, but there is so much more to look forward to than that.

For amateurs and pros alike, the key thing to know is when the biggest horse events take place and where. We’ll give you all of the latest dates and places to make sure you know, in advance, how America’s horse racing schedule shapes up for 2021.

January

  • Sham Stakes – January 2, 2021
  • Santa Ynez Stakes – January 3, 2021
  • La Cañada Stakes – January 9, 2021
  • Pegasus World Cup Turf – January 23, 2021

In January, be prepared for the Santa Ynez Stakes a major prep race for the upcoming US Triple Tiara. 

Although staged over just one mile, the Sham at Santa Anita is our first real Kentucky Derby prep race. More is to follow on that, while in January Florida hosts the first big Grade I races of the year.

The Pegasus World Cup and its turf equivalent take place at Gulfstream Park and will feature some of the top performers from 2020, along with some big European contenders too.

RaceTrackConditions
Sham StakesSanta Anita3yo, 1 mile, Grade III
Santa Ynez StakesSanta Anita3yo fillies, 7/8 mile, Grade II
La Cañada StakesSanta Anita4yo+ fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Grade III
Pegasus World CupGulfstream Park4yo+, 1 1/8 miles, Grade I
Pegasus World Cup TurfGulfstream Park4yo+, 1 3/16 miles (turf), Grade I

In January, be prepared for the Santa Ynez Stakes a major prep race for the upcoming US Triple Tiara. 

The horse racing calendar may start off slow but there are gallops to come.

February

  • Sam F. Davis Stakes – February 6, 2021
  • Risen Star Stakes – February 13, 2021
  • El Camino Real Derby – February 13, 2021
  • Fountain of Youth Stakes – February 27, 2021

The early part of the year is understandably taken up mostly by the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The El Camino, Sam F. Davis, and the Risen Star are all recognized as major Derby preps.

The big one this month though is the Fountain of Youth in Florida. The form of Florida preps in recent years has been first class, making this race a key trial for Kentucky.

RaceTrackConditions
Sam F. Davis StakesTampa Bay Downs3yo colts, 1 1/6 miles, Grade III
Risen Star StakesFairgrounds3yo colts, 1 1/8 miles, Grade II
El Camino Real DerbyGolden Gate Fields3yo, 1 1/8 miles, Listed Race
Fountain of Youth StakesGulfstream Park3yo colts, 1 1/16 miles, Grade II

March

  • Gotham Stakes – March 6, 2021
  • Frank E. Kilroe Mile – March 6, 2021
  • San Felipe Stakes – March 6, 2021
  • Tampa Bay Derby – March 6, 2021
  • Beholder Mile – March 13, 2021
  • Florida Derby – March 27, 2021
  • Santana Mile – March 28, 2021
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The next horse race of major note in the horse racing calendar is the Florida Derby. Another top race at Gulfstream, it’s perhaps the strongest race ahead of the Kentucky Derby and a Grade I itself.

The Beholder Mile is another race run at the top level, while further Derby preps keep coming around the country as trainers in every major state look to get their best colts primed for a trip to Churchill Downs in early May.

RaceTrackConditions
Gotham StakesAqueduct3yo colts, 1 mile, Grade III
Frank E. Kilroe MileSanta Anita4yo+, 1m (turf), Grade I
San Felipe StakesSanta Anita3yo, 1 1/16 miles, Grade II
Tampa Bay DerbyTampa Bay Downs3yo, 1 1/16 miles, Grade II
Beholder Mile StakesSanta Anita3yo+ fillies, 1 mile, Grade I
Florida DerbyGulfstream Park3yo colts, 1 1/8 miles, Grade I
Santana MileSanta Anita4yo+, 1 mile, Listed Race

April

  • Bluegrass Stakes – April 1, 2021
  • Wood Memorial Stakes – April 3, 2021
  • Santa Anita Derby – April 3, 2021
  • Ashland Stakes – April 3, 2021
  • Carter Handicap – April 9, 2021
  • Maker’s 46 Mile – April 9, 2021
  •  Arkansas Derby – April 10, 2021
  • Apple Blossom Handicap – April 17, 2021
  • Kentucky Oaks – April 30, 2021

We reach a key point in the horse racing schedule now, just a month out from the Kentucky Derby. The Bluegrass, the Wood Memorial, and especially the Santa Anita Derby are all important in this regard, but there’s more.

The Arkansas Derby and the Apple Blossom are huge, while the Kentucky Oaks gets the Derby meet going.

RaceTrackConditions
Bluegrass StakesKeeneland3yo, 1 1/8 miles, Grade II
Wood Memorial StakesAqueduct3yo colts, 1 1/8 miles, Grade II
Santa Anita DerbySanta Anita3yo colts, 1 1/8 miles, Grade I
Ashland StakesKeeneland3yo fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Grade I
Carter HandicapBelmont Park3yo+, 7/8 mile, Grade I
Maker’s 46 MileKeeneland4yo+, 1 mile (turf), Grade I
Arkansas DerbyOaklawn Park3yo, 1 1/8 miles, Grade I
Apple Blossom HandicapOaklawn Park4yo+ fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Grade I
Kentucky OaksChurchill Downs3yo fillies, 1 1/8 miles, Grade I

May: Kentucky Derby & Preakness

  • Churchill Downs Stakes – May 1, 2021
  • Kentucky Derby – May 1, 2021
  • Man o’ War Stakes – May 8, 2021
  • Preakness Stakes – May 15, 2021
  • Gamely Stakes – May 24, 2021

Let’s face it, for many, the entire 2021 horse racing calendar comes down to May – it’s Kentucky Derby time! The first race in the Triple Crown series, the $3million Derby is simply huge and will be watched by millions around the world.

Kentucky Derby betting is among the fiercest anywhere on the globe, make no mistake. But the fun in May doesn’t end there. The Preakness Stakes comes up real quick and forms the second leg of the Triple Crown, while the older turf horses are out at the top level in the Man o’ War over in New York.

RaceTrackConditions
Churchill Downs StakesChurchill Downs4yo+, 7/8 mile, GI
Kentucky DerbyChurchill Downs3yo, 1¼ miles, GI
Man o’ War StakesBelmont Park4yo+, 1 3/8 miles (turf), GI
Preakness StakesPimlico3yo, 1 3/16 miles, GI
Gamely StakesSanta Anita3yo+ fillies, 1 1/8 miles (turf), GI

June

  • Acorn Stakes – June 5, 2021
  • Belmont Stakes – June 5, 2021
  • Metropolitan Handicap – June 5, 2021
  • Jaipur Invitational – June 5, 2021
  • Hollywood Gold Cup – June 5, 2021

All the biggest action in June comes at the start of the month as Belmont Park takes over. The Met Mile is a huge event but the card is focused around the Belmont Stakes.

The Belmont is the final leg of the Triple Crown and may yet be the race in which we see the 14th equine legend crowned, emulating Secretariat and Justify. Here’s hoping!

It’s important to keep an eye on the Jaipur too. This is a major sprint that has a big bearing on the betting for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November.

RaceTrackConditions
Acorn StakesBelmont Park3yo fillies, 1 mile, GI
Belmont StakesBelmont Park3yo, 1½ miles, GI
Metropolitan HandicapBelmont Park3yo+, 1m, GI (handicap)
Jaipur Invitational StakesBelmont Park3yo+, ¾ mile, GI
Hollywood Gold CupSanta Anita3yo+, 1¼ miles, GI

July

  • Belmont Derby – July 3, 2021
  • Belmont Oaks – July 3, 2021
  • Diana Stakes – July 10, 2021
  • Haskell Stakes – July 17, 2021

The major horse races continue in New York in July during Belmont’s amazing summer meet. Their Derby and Oaks allow the best turf sophomores their chance to shine, with more GI action over at Saratoga.

The biggy however is at Monmouth. The Haskell Stakes is the biggest three-year-old race outside of the Triple Crown. This event can go a long way to deciding the Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite and the Horse of the Year.

RaceTrackConditions
Belmont DerbyBelmont Park3yo colts, 1¼ miles (turf) GI
Belmont OaksBelmont Park3yo fillies, 1¼ miles (turf), GI
Diana StakesSaratoga3yo+ fillies, 1 1/8 miles, GI
Haskell StakesMonmouth3yo, 1 1/8 miles, GI (invitation only)

August

  • Whitney Handicap – August 7, 2021
  • Arlington Million – August 7, 2021
  • Beverly D. Stakes – August 7, 2021
  • Pacific Classic – August 14, 2021
  • Travers Stakes – August 21, 2021
  • Sword Dancer Stakes – August 21, 2021

It’s Chicago’s chance to shine in August, while the best turf horses are also given their opportunity. The Arlington Million is the big attraction at the start of the month, bringing over the pond the best that Europe has to offer.

The overseas horses may even stick around for the Sword Dancer too, a supporting race for the Travers Stakes. The Travers is another huge sophomore race, while the generations can clash in the Pacific Classic.

We’re really at a peak time in the horse racing calendar now. Whatever horse wins the Pacific Classic may well be favored at the Breeders’ Cup with the Classic being the next horse race targeted by major barns.

RaceTrackConditions
Whitney HandicapSaratoga3yo+, 1 1/8 miles, GI
Arlington MillionArlington Park3yo+, 1¼ miles (turf), GI
Beverly D. StakesArlington Park3yo+ fillies, 1 3/16 miles (turf), GI
Pacific ClassicDel Mar3yo+, 1¼ miles, GI
Travers StakesSaratoga3yo, 1¼ miles, GI
Sword Dancer StakesSaratoga4yo+, 1½ miles (turf), GI

September

  • Pennsylvania Derby – September 18, 2021
  • Cotillion Stakes – September 18, 2021
  • American Pharoah Stakes – September 25, 2021

Major horse events are run all over the country, and in September it’s Parx’s turn to hit the headlines.

Their Pennsylvania Derby is a Grade I event primarily for the colts, but the fillies aren’t to be left out. The Cotillion is the girls’ equivalent, while the juveniles now start to come to the fore too.

The American Pharoah Stakes out in California is the first truly big two-year-old race with Bob Baffert expected to dominate.

RaceTrackConditions
Pennsylvania DerbyParx3yo, 1 1/8 miles, GI
Cotillion StakesParx3yo fillies, 1 3/16 miles, GI
American Pharoah StakesSanta Anita2yo, 1 1/16 miles, GI

October: Preakness Stakes

  • Shadwell Turf Mile – October 2, 2021
  • Breeders’ Futurity Stakes – October 2, 2021
  • Champagne Stakes – October 2, 2021
  • Jockey Club Gold Cup – October 9, 2021

We’re on Eastern Time in October as Kentucky and New York take center stage. Keeneland hosts the Shadwell Turf Mile and a major juvenile race, the Breeders’ Futurity while there is more to come from the 2yo’s at Belmont.

The Champagne Stakes over a mile of Big Sandy could provide the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Also on the card is the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a major prep for the Classic.

RaceTrackConditions
Shadwell Turf MileKeeneland3yo+, 1 mile (turf), GI
Breeders’ Futurity StakesKeeneland2yo, 1 1/16 miles, GI
Champagne StakesBelmont Park2yo, 1 mile, GI
Jockey Club Gold CupBelmont Park3yo+, 1¼ miles, GI

November: Breeders’ Cup

  • Breeders’ Cup – November 5 & 6, 2021
  • Clark Handicap – November 26, 2021

This is what it has all been building up to. There are 14 big horse races coming up at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, an awesome sight to behold.

The Breeders’ Cup is worth some $30million and is the meet at which live streaming of horse racing reaches its peak, being hosted in California once again.

From the Juvenile to the Classic, the Sprint to the Turf, races are for horses from two years old and over from 5½ furlongs right up to a mile-and-a-half.

Race TrackEventType of racing
Aqueduct Race trackCigar Mile Handicap Thorough-bred flat
VariousBreeder’s CupAll types

December

  • Cigar Mile – December 4, 2021
  • La Brea Stakes – December 26, 2021

Our horse racing calendar is rounded off nicely by the Cigar Mile and the La Brea, two more big Grade I races.

RaceTrackConditions
Cigar MileAqueduct3yo+, 1 mile, GI (handicap)
La Brea StakesSanta Anita3yo fillies, 7/8 mile, GI

Around the World

These are just the US events to put down in your diary. However, horse racing is a very international sport and ambitious punters will want to put wagers on major races around the globe.

Europe, the Middle East, and Australia hold world renown horse racing events that cannot be left out of any calendar.

You can also visit this vibrant list from the Telegraph, for further insights.

France  

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

France has a very prominent racing culture and a series of beautiful race tracks across the country.

Its most famous is Longchamps. The Parisian track hosts around half of the group one races in France.

This course also has a deep history as it has been in existence since 1857

  • Prix de l’Atlantique – April
  • Grand Prix de Deauville- August
  • Prix de l’Etoile- September
  • Weekend du Quatar- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

UK

Royal-Ascot-2009, The Prince of Wales and his wife

The UK is renown for the Grand National which is one of the most famous steeple chase races in the world.

It is held at the Aintree racecourse near Liverpool and has been around since 1836.

  • Royal Ascot, UK- June
  • The Grand National– April
  • Cheltenham Festival– March
  • Triple Crown of Hurdling: Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Christmas Hurdle and The Champion Hurdle

Dubai

L'Ormarins Queen's Plate

The prominence of horse racing is Dubai is fairly recent and yet this city has caught up at a miraculously fast pace.

The World Cup Night offers an impressive purse of $27.3 million

  • World Cup Night – March

Australia

Australia racing also draws an impressive audience.

For the Melbourne cup, up to 120,000 people can be expected to watch at the race course.

  • The Melbourne Cup- November

South Africa

In South Africa, the Queen Plate’s is an incredibly prestigious event which attracts Cape Town’s high society in their finest outfits.

As with Ascot, the dress code is very strict.

  • L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate- January

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FAQs

What is a good way to live stream horse races?

Horse betting sites often allow users to watch live races after a small deposit.

What is the best horse racing TV channel?

TVG2 has most live horse races in America. ESPN often shows races as well.