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Horse Racing: A look ahead to what's in store in 2022

As we put behind us another frantic festive racing schedule, the New Year is upon us and thoughts turn towards which stars - equine and human - will shine in the next 12 months.

Jumps racing will of course dominate the opening months of the year, as we hurtle towards spring and the major festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.

The Flat will soon take over as April turns to May and the Guineas Festival arrives at Newmarket. Before we know it, bright sunny summer afternoons at Epsom and Royal Ascot will be in front of us once again.

And of course you will be able to follow much of the action on our Sports Live Streaming platform.

Cheltenham plots starting to take shape

January brings along Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day (Saturday 29th), the last meeting at the Cotswolds venue before March. By now, our ideas and thoughts for those four days in March are starting to take proper shape.

Can anyone stop 4/6 Honeysuckle retaining her Champion Hurdle crown on 15th March? It's looking less and less likely as we draw closer.

Shishkin's seasonal bow was delayed - to the dismay of some - but once more trainer Nicky Henderson got it spot on and his unbeaten chaser looked superb in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. He's now 4/5 to follow last season's Arkle win by winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase on 16th March.

The Stayers' Hurdle remains anyone's guess, though 2/1 Klassical Dream and 7/2 Champ have stated their cases on opposite sides of the Irish Sea in recent weeks and then there is the small matter of the Gold Cup.

Reigning kingpin Minella Indo fluffed his lines in the King George and is 7/1 to strike again, while Henry De Bromhead-trained stablemate and 2021 runner-up, A Plus Tard, was pipped on home soil at Christmas by Galvin, after a previous Betfair Chase demolition job.

The Blue Riband looks as wide open as in many a year now.

Can Rachael raise the bar still further?

Those were the words chosen by Richard Hoiles when Rachael Blackmore brought Minella Times home in front to win the Grand National last spring.

A month after being crowned leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival, Blackmore became the first female rider to win the Grand National at Aintree.

It was a year in which she shattered glass ceilings time and again and the only racing certainty is that Rachael Blackmore is here to stay. Her talent, desire and drive to succeed will make it thus.

Fresh from being crowned the BBC's World Sports Star of the Year in December, what does 2022 hold for racing's Queen of the saddle? Time will tell but there ought to be plenty more success in the next 12 months.

She's as short as 5/2 to be leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival again in March, while bet365 offer an array of specials on the jockey, including 100/1 on Blackmore riding the winner of the Champion Hurdle, the Gold Cup and the Aintree Grand National this spring.

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Baaeed to be the star of 2022?

An unbeaten racehorse in any code is always something to get chins wagging and even more so when said horse starts to rattle up into top-class company.

So it was with Baaeed in 2021. The William Haggas-trained Sea The Stars colt didn't even race until after The Derby at Epsom was run, debuting days later at Leicester in a run of the mill maiden.

Two starts later he was winning in Listed company at Newmarket's July Festival and, later that month, thrashing his rivals in a Glorious Goodwood Group 3.

He arrived in the top tier by winning the Prix Moulin De Longchamp at Longchamp in September signed off by besting Europe's top miler, Palace Pier, in the QEII at Ascot on British Champions Day.

He's quite the talent for owners Shadwell going into the new season and bet365 make him a 4/1 chance to win three-or-more British Group 1 races in 2022.

Classic clashes back on

After some time in the doldrums, Charlie Appleby has helped Godolphin back to the top table of thoroughbred racing.

His win with Masar in the 2018 Epsom Derby was the touch-paper that rekindled Godolphin as a major force and the Newmarket handler is now their shining light.

Between them Appleby and Aidan O'Brien have accounted for eight of the last ten Epsom Derby winners, so can anyone prevent them going in again this summer?

It's 7/1 that Godolphin will win the premier Classic on 4th June and just 5/2 that Ireland's O'Brien will secure his ninth victory in the Epsom Classic.

The Classic journey begins at Newmarket on 30th April with the 2000 Guineas, for which Appleby's Native Trail heads the market at 3/1 after maintaining his unbeaten record in the Dewhurst in October. The 1000 Guineas follows on 1st May, with just five weeks from there to Epsom in June.

That month is as always rich in quality, with Royal Ascot throwing a cloak of grandeur over the racing world from 14th-18th June as summer really heats up.

A stellar month in July ends with Glorious Goodwood (26th-30th July) on the famous Sussex Downs before the Knavesmire of York hits centre stage with the Ebor Festival from 17th-20th August.

From there to Doncaster and the St Leger in mid-September before British Champions Day on 15th October brings down the curtain once again on the superstars of the Flat.

Action on foreign fields

Of course, while Britain and Ireland is stocked with high-quality equine action to cater for all needs, there are times in the year when our focus switches away from these shores.

The shades of autumn are a delight at Paris-Longchamp on Arc Weekend (1st-2nd October), with 2022 set to be the 101st staging of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe - Europe's premier middle-distance race and a generational contest to savour on a weekend simply bursting with quality on the outskirts of the French capital.

If the Arc is all history and culture, then a month later it's the turn of the United States to put on a show of razzmatazz and high jinks unmatched at the Breeders' Cup - this year taking place at Keeneland on 4th-5th November.

Billed as 'The World Championships' of racing, the Breeders' Cup attracts the best of north and south America, Europe and Asia to compete and, following Japan's overdue breakthrough in 2021, it will be better than ever when it rolls around again.

A lot of racing action will pass our eyes before then and it will no doubt continue to take out breath away in 2022.

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