It is disappointing that once again there is
no British or Irish interest in the 2017 Velka Pardubicka but we do have
healthy twenty declared (not bad as only thirty eight were entered) and the
strongest ever French challenge. It is a very open renewal this year and here
are my thoughts.
TER MILL 4 wins from 12 jumps
races (4 course wins at Pardubice) – Front runner who carries his head low. Ran
well in the May qualifier until a mistake six out put pay to his chances. This
will be his fourth Velka and two have ended on the floor. Cannot see that he
will better last years sixth place. Jockey Jan Odlozil is having his second
0F2U-00 NIKAS 4/33 (4C) – Will be running in his sixth Velka and finished
first past the post in 2015 only to lose the race on a technicality. He also
finished second in 2013. However these are the only times he has completed the
course and two of his Velkas have ended at the Taxis. Shown nothing this year
getting round in his own time in qualifiers but you can never rule this one
out. Lukas Matusky has ridden in two Velkas.
30-03F2 PARETO (3/32) – A fourth Velka for this one who has twice finished
and once fallen at the Taxis. Chased home Delight My Fire in Poland last time
which is good form but I cannot see this one fighting out the finish. Pavel
Slozil Jnr made his debut last year finishing down the field.
NO TIME TO LOSE (GB) (4/16)
(4C) – Won at Lingfield on the flat as a three year old. Came to the Czech
Republic the following year and was a comfortable winner of the Vlatavy Prize
on this card last year. This season has finished runner up in two qualifiers
and gave Charm Look a run for his money in August. One for the short list. Jan
Kratochvil was champion jockey in 2015 & 2016 and this will be his third
Velka – he rode runner up Ange Guardian last year.
0122-F0 ANGE GUARDIAN (GER) 7/27 – All of his wins have come away from
Pardubice. In excellent form last year winning two Grade 1 events at Lysa
before going down ten lengths to Charm Look in last years race. This season has
shown little, falling at Lysa on his first start before making mistakes and
finishing in rear in the August qualifier. Josef Vana Jnr will be riding in his
ninth Velka. This former champion jockey and son of the legendary Josef Vana
has never reached the frame. His mount refused to race last year.
P0-400P VAL DE GUYE (FR) 0/13 – Has never reached the first three in his
life. Tailed off throughout in the June qualifier and pulled up in August. No
chance whatsoever. Jan Derych has been riding since 2000 but will be making his Velka debut.
7 11-F121 SONGE
D’ESTRUVAL (FR) 13/22 – Prolific winner in the French provinces
particularly over the cross country course at Pompadour where he has won eight
times. Won at Vichy last time out. Never raced over 5200m. I don’t know too
much about Colm McCormack who has ridden 18 winners in the UK
00/1P-40 KASIM (5/33) (4C) – A winner of qualifiers in 2014 & 2016 and
two fifth places and a fourth in three Velkas. An impressive CV but I cannot
see him improving as a twelve year old. Marcel Novak is currently enjoying his
best season and is leading the jockeys championship with eighteen wins. He has
ridden in seven Velkas, fourth has been his best placing.
F0/010-0 TEMPLAR (3/26) (C) – Won a qualifier in 2016 and was disputing the
lead with Charm Look in last years Velka before fading to finish seventh. Not
sure this one stays as he faded in a similar fashion in the June qualifier.
Frenchman Kevin Guignon will be having his second ride in the race.
BRIDGEUR (0/18) – At six the
baby of the field. Still a maiden but impressed with his front running
performance in the September qualifier. Each year an outsider runs a big race
to fill the placings and this may be the one to do so in 2017.
ZARIF (IRE) (6/26) (5C) – Has
finished sixth, third and second in the race and is one of the best cross
country chasers in the Czech Republic. He won the May qualifier (if a little
fortunate with the departure of Charme Look) but was laboring in August
although he did rally at the finish. Cannot see him winning this as a fourth
attempt but will surely run another solid race. Josef Bartos has ridden in fourteen Velkas and
won the race in 2006 on Decent Fellow and was awarded the race in 2008 on
VIRTUS D’ESTRUVAL (FR) (9/20)
– Third in the valuable Grand Cross at Craon and won over 6000m at Fontainbleau
so should stay. The booking of Jan Faltejesek is interesting. He has ridden
with success in the UK and is now based mainly in France. His recent Velka record is impressive
winning four of the last five Velkas,
three with Orphee des Blins (2012-14) and with Charme Look last year.
0U-F401 UNIVERSE OF GRACIE (GER) (6/53) (6C) – Has been a leading fancy for
this race in the past finishing fourth in 2013 and third (having made most of
the running) in 2014. Ran no sort of race last year and unseated late in the
race. Showed a return to form with a late turn of foot to win a Cat 2 event at
the last meeting. Nice to see him return to winning ways but his time has come
and gone. Jiri Kousek has ridden seven Velkas finishing runner up twice and
ELDORADO (GER) 6/18 (4C) – Fifth in the May qualifier on his
only start is his only glimmer of form for some time. Not in this leage.
Rotislav Bens rides mostly in Poland and will be having his third ride in the
DELIGHT MY FIRE (FR) – 9/23
(2C) – Fell when in contention in the latter stages of a cross country event at
Cheltenham in December. Making his Velka debut but won the valuable Labe Prize
in a tight finish on this card last year. This year has raced away from the
Czech Republic but on his last start landed Polands most prestigious prize, the
Wielka Wroclawska at Wroclaw in September. If anyone is to lower Charme Look’s
colours then it is this one. Niklas Loven is Swedens top jump jockey and
regularly visits Pardubice. This will be
his second Velka. He was unseated in 2012.
MAUGLI (3/39) – Twice winner
of Netolice Prize but mostly competing in minor events. No chance. Martin Liska
has ridden in seven Velkas. Fourth has been his best position to date.
POWER ZAR (GB) – 5/20 (2C) –
Winner of the September qualifier which I am told was a weak event but his
victory in a Cat 1 event at Pardubice over Charm Look in May 2016 is very good form.
Possible each way claims. Bulgarian rider Sertash Fehranov is making his second
SIXTYSEVEN 3/20 – Finished a respectable fourth in the
September qualifier but his performances in other qualifiers suggest that he is
completely out of his depth. Lukas Sloup will be having his second ride in the
CHARM LOOK 10/16 (CD) (8C) – The
reigning champion who did not put a foot wrong to win this by ten lengths. This
year he won the August qualifier and would have won in May too if he hadn’t
unseated six out. Pardubice specialist he has only twice been beaten when he
completes the course. Marek Stromsky has twice finished first past the post in
the Velka and has twice been disqualified. There would be no more popular
URGENTE DE GREGANE (FR)
(6/22) – Five time winner in French provinces. Not seen out since springing a
50-1 surprise over the Cheltenham cross country course in January. That is
clearly the best form in the race. Felix de Giles has ridden over 200 runners
in the UK and is currently based in France. He will be making his Velka debut.
timers Nikas, Universe de Gracie and Zarif are all capable of reaching a place.
My outsider this year is Bridgeur who could sneak a place at big odds.
Power Zar and No Time to Lose will be there abouts. The
French challenge is particularly strong, Urgent de Gregane has winning
form at Cheltenham and Virtus D Estruval is currently second favourite in the
betting. However remember that the French traditionally have a wretched record
in this race. Since 1995 none of their ten runners have managed a place and
only three have got round. Charm Look will start favourite and has an
obvious chance to land back to back Velkas in a race that does throw up
multiple winners. However I am going to oppose the favourite and select DELIGHT MY FIRE - an impressive winner on this card last year and has
done little wrong this.
Welcome to the unofficial webpages of the Velka Pardubicka Steeplechase, mainland Europes most exciting steeplechase
The Velka Pardubicka Steeplechase is run on the second Sunday in October in the town of Pardubice in the Czech Republic.
I first became aware of the race one Saturday afternoon in the mid seventies while watching the late lamented World Of Sport on television. On a day when the weather had wiped out the racing in Britain as a consolation a short film of the Velka was shown. It was a silent film accompanied with a strange musical soundtrack and I can only remember the sight of horse after horse running (or so it seemed) head first into several enormous water jumps. I had never seen anything like this on a British racecourse and vowed that I would discover as much as I could about the race. I was only seven at the time and the for the next ten years all I could find out was that the race was run in a country far far away called Czechoslovakia beyond the depths of the Iron Curtain. Plumpton was far more accessible.
In 1986 thanks to Essexs participation in the Grand National I was able to video a short clip of his attempt in the 1985 Velka securing my first permanent record of the race. With the fall of communism I made my first attempt at visiting the race in 1990.
Unfortunately in those days you still needed a visa to travel to Czechoslovakia as it then was known and due to a problem with mine my journey ended at the Austrian border so I went racing instead at their wonderful (although sadly now defunct) racecourse at Freudenau. As some small compensation that years race was broadcast in its entirety on British terrestrial television for the one and only time.
Five years later in 1995 I managed to make the journey and if you forget the stressful train journey from Prague sharing a carriage with neo-Nazis and animal rights protesters, the fact that my tickets had gone missing and were not at the hotel to be picked up, the last minute rush to find alternate seats IT WAS A BRILLIANT DAYS RACING. I witnessed the most exciting finish ever seen to a Velka and to top it all I cheered the British trained Its a Snip to victory until my voice had completely gone. I did not return (wife and three children) until 2005 but such was the warm welcome I received from former racecourse chairman Mirek Petran and his staff I vowed that a pilgrimage to Pardubice, the European home of steeplechasing would become an annual event. Of course it hasn`t and I have only been back in 2006 & 2008 but it is still fantastic and the race is more popular than ever and in recent years it has been broadcast live on Racing UK (with commentary courtesy of Mark Johnson).
Following Czech jumping is so much more fun than watching flat racing.
My thanks go out to Miroslav Nehyba, the leading authority on the race for all his help with my research and for those wonderful DVDs, to Robin Healey who provides me with all the information on Czech racing throughout the year and who does not mind when I crib his form guide, the staff at Pardubice for their hospitality and of course the lads at Course & Distance Racing who organised some fantastic trips to Pardubice .
A special thanks must go out to photographer Tomas Svaton who emailed me after the 2011 race and has allowed me to use some of his excellent photographs on the website.
I do hope that you, like myself and thousands of other British and Irish racegoers decide to take a racing break in the Czech Republic and Pardubice. A warm welcome and some excellent horse racing awaits. You won`t regret it.
If you have any enquries about the Velka Pardubicka or horse racing in the Czech & Slovak Republics please do not hesitate to contact me on Becher1234@yahoo.co.uk. Remember to sign my guestbook.