With the 2021 Breeders’ Cup now safely consigned to the record books, thoughts are already turning to the year ahead in the US horse racing betting season.
Much of the attention at this stage of the year inevitably focuses on potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Staged during May and June, the three races make up the hugely prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in the US.
Identifying horses capable of achieving the feat is like finding a needle in a haystack, but here are four who could make up into Grade I winners next season.
Newgrange looked to be a horse with a massive future ahead of him after recording a stylish victory in a maiden special weight at Del Mar last Sunday.
The horse sat just off the fast opening fractions, before making a move around the turn and pulling clear on the run-in to win by nearly two lengths.
The son of juvenile Grade 1 winner Violence looked extremely impressive under jockey John Velazquez and could make into a top-class performer.
Out of a mare by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, the Bob Baffert-trained horse should be well worth following next year.
Got Thunder finished second behind Newgrange at Del Mar, but could also develop into a contender for the big races as he grows stronger.
The son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate did not look fully tuned up last weekend, with trainer John Sadler clearly leaving plenty to work on.
Got Thunder is bred to improve with age and should take a major leap forward when he steps up in distance as a three-year-old.
Given the horse’s pedigree, it would be no surprise to see him emerge as a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby next season.
Nest produced an eye-catching debut over a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont Park in September, cruising into the lead on the turn and drawing away for a facile success.
She failed to follow up over one mile at the same track in November, finishing a fast-closing third behind Gerrymander and Magic Circle.
Nest is scheduled to run over nine furlongs in the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct Park on Saturday, and is strongly fancied to regain the winning thread.
The daughter of Curlin was an expensive purchase at $350,000, but has the talent to hit the headlines a three-year-old.
Corniche retained his unbeaten record with a brilliant victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar earlier this month.
Bookmakers reacted to that performance by installing the horse as early favourite for the Kentucky Derby, but it is unclear whether he will be able to run there.
Baffert is currently in the process of trying to overturn a ban from Churchill Downs over a doping violation. As things stand, he is unable to enter horses in the next two Derbies.
Corniche may have to be switched to another stable if Baffert is unsuccessful, but the horse is worth monitoring regardless of the outcome.