Throughout 2020, horse racing around the globe was, for the most part, able to operate without fans in attendance.  The same is true so far in 2021.  For example, although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has locked down the nation until at least mid-February due to a spike in coronavirus cases, horse racing is allowed to proceed.  Likewise, In Ireland, government authorities have restricted or temporarily banned most sporting events, with horse racing being one of the few exceptions. 

Technology that allows fans to conveniently watch and bet remotely with top horse racing sites has enabled horse racing to avoid the shutdowns and severe financial difficulties of sporting events that depend heavily on ticket and concession revenues from in-person fans.  Prior to the pandemic of 2020, the majority of pari-mutuel handle came from off-track betting and this turned out to be a huge advantage in weathering the pandemic storm. 

It will take time for the world to vaccinate enough people to return to a semblance of pre-pandemic conditions, so most sporting events for winter 2021 are likely to ban or limit the number of fans in attendance, or cancel.  Fortunately, horse racing aficionados can look forward to a winter of premier cards from the United States, Great Britain, and the Mideast.

The calendar kicks off with the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Turf from Gulfstream Park in Florida on January 23.  The former is contested on dirt with a $3 million purse and the latter is a $1 million race on grass.

Then, the spotlight turns to King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for races held on February 19 and 20.  The second renewal of the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race with a purse of $20 million, is the feature on February 20.  Over the two-days of racing, purses are worth an astonishing $30.5 million.  In 2020, 64 foreign entries from ten countries competed in seven international races and culminated with the Saudi Cup.

On March 27, the Dubai World Cup is set to return after being cancelled in 2020.  Nine races with $35 million in purses are run on a single day at Meyden Racecourse.  The showcase is the $12 million Dubai World Cup.

Steeplechase or “jump” fans always look forward to the four-day, 28-race Cheltenham Festival in England, which is scheduled for March 16-19.  The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race.  It is highly problematic whether fans will be able to attend, but, if not, they can watch and bet remotely.

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