The Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with the 2020 racing calendar, which had to be modified. In addition, fans were not able to attend most of the top events, but were still treated to plenty of high-quality action via television. With the advent of vaccines, 2021 looks more promising for a return to a normal schedule of races with fans in attendance.

European online sportsbooks have already got ante-post markets up for next year’s biggest meetings, and bettors are starting to lock in their wagers on races in the UK, Ireland, USA, and elsewhere.  Here are a few showcase events for 2021.

Cheltenham Festival – March 16th-19th

Last year’s Cheltenham took place in front of a packed crowd, in what was one of the last sporting events with fans present before lockdown.

Fans may be able to return to the stands in 2021, at least a limited number, but regardless of whether they can or not, it will be competitive cards of racing across all four days.

At the time of writing, Epatante is a 3/1 favorite for the Champion Hurdle on most horse racing betting sites, and Chacun Pour Soi heads the market in the Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 17. 

Sire Du Berlais, Paisley Park, and Benie Des Dieux are difficult to separate in the Stayers Hurdle, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup is equally wide open, with Al Boum Photo, bidding for a third successive triumph in Friday’s feature race, considered a slight favorite.

Grand National – April 8th-10th

The Grand National was cancelled in 2020, so Tiger Roll was unable to try and make it three victories in a row at Aintree.  But trainer Gordon Elliot has confirmed that he plans for him to go again in 2021, even though Tiger Roll not won a race since the 2019 Grand National.

Current odds on Tiger Roll vary considerably, from 12/1 to 20/1, and the same can be said for Presenting Percy, who is also in Elliot’s stable.

Kentucky Derby – April 30th-May 1st

Having taken place four months late in 2020, on September 5, the Kentucky Derby returns to its usual slot on the first Saturday in May in 2021, with the Kentucky Oaks the day before on April 30.

At this year’s Kentucky Derby, Authentic sprung an upset over the favorite Tiz the Law, winning the ceremonial blanket of roses and $1.86 million.

Essential Quality, a 2-year-old with a perfect record, is a 12/1 favorite for the 2021 Derby.

Epsom Derby – June 4th-5

In early June, Epsom Downs plays host to arguably the most prestigious turf race in the world…and for sure the most prestigious turf event for 3-year-old racehorses.

Remarkably, in 2020, the top three finishers were at odds of 25/1, 50/1, and 66/1 shots, respectively, as the Aidan O’Brien-trained Serpentine prevailed.

High Definition is presently the favorite for the 2021 renewal, with a best price of 8/1.

Royal Ascot – June 15th-19th

Certainly the most historic and illustrious meet on the UK racing calendar, Royal Ascot is set for the middle of June and, as always, the very best stayers will be running, hopefully watched in person by royalty and thousands of fans.

Battaash is a slight favorite for the Kings Stand Stakes, while Stradivarius, who romped home under Frankie Dettori in the Ascot Gold Cup in 2020, is 4/1.

The Commonwealth Cup is wide open, but bettors like Supremacy, Campanelle, and Golden Pal.