In a break with tradition the 2012 Velka was run on a Saturday in an attempt to avoid a clash with Pardubices`other main sporting event the Golden Helmet Speedway meeting (hopeless..absolutely hopeless). Fortnately for the Pardubice executive a bumper crowd still made the piglrimage to Pardubice albeit several regular visitors from the UK stayed way. TIUMEN was back to try a record fourth straight Velka success but both horse and rider had had their setbacks. TIUMEN was kept off the track until September whilst Josef Vana broke his thigh at Easter in a training accident. In a twenty three strong field he started favourite although there was considerable support for TREZOR who had raced in two qualifiers and won them both. He was to be ridden by the 2009 Gand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell who had ridden the horse to both his victories and had been making several visits to Pardubice over the summer to prepare for the big day. There were three foreign trained runners including the best Irish challenger for years in the Willie Mullins trained UNCLE JUNIOR , winner of the La Touche Cup at Punchestown and the British entry MALJIMAR who seemed an ideal candidate. Both had been running in cross country events in France in preparation with MALJIMAR winning a valuable event at Fontainebleau. After heavy rain conditions were testing. From a level start the mare ORPHEE DES BLINS the least experienced runner in the field went straight into the lead....and stayed there. Apart from handing the initiative to KLAUS at the Irish Bank ORPHEE DES BLINS was never headed and turned the race into a procession. Jumping superbly throughout she was clear by the second In and Out and the result barring a fall was never in doubt. It was easily the most dominant performance since modifications and we saw the most convincing winner since Valencio in 1986. Reminding me very much of the runaway winner of the 1997 Grand National, Lord Gyllene ORPHEE DES BLINS simply destroyed the field. TREZOR and KLAUS chased her for most of the race but faded whilst TIUMEN simply never got into the race at all (a mistake at the Big Water didn`t help his chances). UNCLE JUNIOR was never a factor and MALJIMAR spent most of the race in the rear but made up considerable ground to finish fourth. It was a race of few incidents, BREMEN PLAN blundered and unseated at the Taxis and only two other riders ended on the floor. ORPHEE DES BLINS originated from France and won five steeplechases there before being exported to the Czech Republic in August 2008. She was having only her eighth start having missed nearly two years through injury and was a first Velka runner for Polish trainer Greg Wroblewski who was now based in the Czech Repubic having trained in Italy and his native Poland. A dual purpose trainer this was his biggest win over jumps since he landed the Swedish Grand National in 2004. Jockey Jan Faltejesek had been riding with some success in the north of England for trainer Alistair Charlton and had ridden in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier in the year. Normal service resumed in 2013 with the Velka returning to its traditional Sunday slot.
Also ran : SIXTEEN - Josef Bartos 12 (pulled up 26th), WYONA - Michal Kubik 6 (pulled up 24th), TOMIS - Bohuslav Matl 11 (pulled up 22nd), NIKAS - Petr Tuma 7 (unseated rider 21st), MANDARINO - Pavel Kasny 11 (pulled up 15th), ARGENTAN - Marek Stromsky (pulled up 14th), IMBIR - Niklas Loven 8 (unseated rider 9th), BREMEN PLAN - Jan Korpas 9 (unseated rider 4th)
Normal service resumed with the Velka returning to its traditional Sunday slot. ORPHEE DES BLINS was back and this year was a warm favourite at 2.75-1. After her Velka heroics she had been sent to Cheltenham to contest the Glenfarclas Cross Country event in November but, despite running prominently for most of the race, she faded on the final circuit and was pulled up. This year as reigning Velka heroine she could bypass the qualifiers but she had done all that was asked of her winning her two races at Pardubice effortlessly. She had even beaten the best short distance chasers in the valuable Valecnik Prize in June. There was also strong support for former winner TIUMEN despite him not having won a race since his final Velka triumph two years previously and for TREZOR who had won two more Velka qualifiers during the summer. Another to note was BUDAPEST who had previously been targeted at Italy`s premiers prizes and had twice finished placed in the Gran Premio di Merano. The Irish were three handed with two, MOUNT SION and FRENEYS WELL running in the colours of JP McManus and ZEST FOR LIFE providing a first ride in the Czech Republic for top amateur and big race specialist Sam Waley-Cohen. Nick Wlliams sent over SHALIMAR FROMENTRO who had been campaigning in cross country races in France. Two British riders were on board Czech horses, Liam Treadwell not on TREZOR this year but on an outsider, the flashy grey SESLOST. There was some resentment from some of the local riders without a ride on learning that a young British seventeen year old amateur with limited experience over jumps, Freddie MItchell, was getting a mount on rank outsider CANTRIDARA. There was drama as the horses made their way down to the start when ZEST FOR LIFE slipped up on the turn. Fortunately the fall had not come at the practice jump, otherwise they would have been prevented from running. As the flag came down, KLAUS was quickly away and held a slight lead over the first fence but by the second ORPHESS DES BLINS was back in front and...she stayed there. Whilst her performance mirrored that of twelve months ago (total dominance), unlike last year there was considerable grief behind the great mare. The number of those chasing her got smaller and smaller. MOUNT SION was the first to go taking a nasty looking fall at the first water and whist the Taxis claimed no scalps Popkovices Turn saw three depart including BUDAPEST and CANTRIDARA leaving a frustrated Mitchell throwing his helmet to the turf in anger. Two went at the next and when SHALIMAR FROMENTRO crashed out at the tenth fence there were only twelve left standing as loose horses criss-crossed the course reminiscent of pre-modification days. The French raider TROPIC DE BRION, KLAUS, STATUS QUO and outsider PEINTRE ABSTRAIT were in contention at half way whilst TIUMEN was struggling at the rear of the field with the Slovak outsider BODYGUARD. Sam Waley-Cohen was separated from ZEST FOR LIFE at the drop fence and both KLAUS and STATUS QUO did their chances no good with mistakes at the big water. ORPHEE DES BLINS, oblivious to the chaos behind her kept jumping and galloping to and to be honest whilst TROPIC DE BRION did his best to stay with her the result was never in doubt. When TREZOR crashed out at Havels jump (the second time this fence had claimed him) he was a distant third with no chance of catching the leader. It was another stunning performance by the mare who won by a distance. Only five horses crossed the line behind her, the final casualty being Josef Vana who, when challenging for the minor honours was slightly hampered by a loose horse and was unseated at the final fence. Fortunately he was unscathed and received warm applause as he walked back up the finishing straight. Was this to be an ignominious end to his great Velka career ?
Also ran : TIUMEN - Josef Vana 12 (unseated rider 30th), TREZOR - Josef Bartos 9 (unseated rider 27th), BODYGUARD - Jaroslav Brecka 7 (pulled up 27th), SESLOST - Liam Treadwell 9 (pulled up 23rd), STATUS QUO - Pavel Kasny 7 (unseated rider 19th), ZEST FOR LIFE - Sam Waley-Cohen 9 (unseated rider 15th), SHALIMAR FROMENTRO - Alain de Chitray 7 (fell 10th), FRENEYS WELL - Martin Ferris 13 (unseated rider 7th), TOMIS - Ondrej Velek 12 (fell 7th), BUDAPEST - Josef Vana Jnr 8 (unseated rider 6th), CANTRIDARA - Freddie Mitchell 7 (unseated rider 6th), SPERANZA - Thomas Boyer 8 (unseated rider 6th), AL JAZ - Michal Kohl 7 (unseated rider 5th), MOUNT SION - Richie McLernon 7 (fell 3rd)
OPHEE DES BLINS returned having had two easy wins this year at Pardubice. Could she become the first mare since Lady Anne to win three Velkas ? Once again TIUMEN (who was still without a win since this final Velka win three years ago) and TREZOR (who had won his fifth Velka qualifier on his only start this term) were her main market rivals. There were no Irish or French challengers this year. Enda Bolger and JP McManus had decided not to return to Pardubice after Mount Sion had been killed the year before. The sole foreign entrant was the Charlie Mann trained LAMBRO who whilst carrying the colours of former hero It`s A Snip did not to be frank look up to the task. On another gloriously sunny and warm autumn afternoon there was a rare false start but at the second time of asking ORPHEE DES BLINS went off in front with UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and NIKAS close up. There were a few mistakes at the first water notably from LAMBRO and SHERARDO but all twenty two runners were still standing as they made the usual charge to the Taxis. The fence that had claimed so few scalps in recent years saw chaos. NIKAS, unseated, AMARAGON took a heavy fall and several were badly hampered. Worse, ZULEJKA did not get high enough and simply fell into the ditch whilst her jockey Josef Bartos laid on his back looking like he had been killed. Poor LAMBRO who was already struggling found himself upsides ZULEJKA and, unsighted came to complete stop as he tried to avoid the other fallers. When PEINTRE ABSTRACT thew rider Lukas Matusky into the Irish Bank (and he too looked seriously injured) it looked like we were in for another war of attrition. Fortunately things settled down and were no further incidents until the grey TER MILL unseated at the English jump twenty fences later. ORPHEE DES BLINS remained in front with UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and the veteran maiden RUBIN with his rider/trainer, the ever popular Martina Ruzickova on board. She had first ridden in the race in 1991 and was still looking to complete the course for the first time. Whilst she remained in front ORPHEE DES BLINS was not allowed to dominate as she had done in previous years and also had to contend with the attraction of two loose horses along the way. As she turned back onto the racecourse proper for the final three hurdles she still had several of her rivals close behind notably KLAUS and the outsider AL JAZZ who was making progress whilst the gallant RUBIN started to drop back. With two fences to go ORPHEE DES BLINS was clear but AL JAZZ was not going to give up and in the home straight for the first time in her Velka career this wonderful mare was shown the whip as Jan Faltejesek drove her on in a desperate finish to just hold on from the ever present AL JAZZ. In the end ORPHEE DES BLINS prevailed but only by three quarters of a length. After the grief early on in the race it was with relief to see that seventeen horses had completed the course. In a distant last place was LAMBRO who clearly hated the experience and who had had his confidence completely knocked out of him at the Taxis. Another terrible mistake at the big water also did not help. In front of him was TIUMEN who had toiled in rear for a second Velka in a row. The remarkable Josef Vana was now sixty one and this was his twenty eighth ride. There was a feeling that this was probably the end. A mention must be given to Martina Ruzickova on RUBIN who weakened rapidly to finish sixteenth but she would have been delighted to have finally got round safely. Sadly ZULEJKA was killed at the Taxis, the second fatality at the fence since the modifications some twenty one years previously re-opening the debate about the safety of the race and whether the ditch should be filled in for good.
Also Ran : TER MILL - Michal Kohl 8 (unseated rider 25th), PEINTRE ABSTRAIT - Lukas Matusky 8 (unseated rider 5th), AMARAGON - Martin Liska 9 (fell 4th), NIKAS - Dusan Andres 9 (unseated rider 4th), ZULEJKA - Josef Bartos 9 (fell 4th)
Trained by : Gregorsz Wroblewski. Time : 9 minutes, 08.25 seconds. Distances : 3/4-13-1-3-6-5-neck-4.5-neck-7-1-distance-3/4-4 1/4-5-distance
11th October 2015
Orphee des Blins and Tiumen were both retired after the 2015 season so there would be a new champion this year. Perpetual qualifier winner Trezor was also not in the field. Also missing was Josef Vana in the saddle as, whilst he would be saddling three of the twenty two strong field, he would be watching from the stands this year. This was very much a local Velka with no runners from either Ireland or the UK - Charlie Mann, like Enda Bolger a year before him had announced that he would no longer be sending runners to Pardubice. Favourite in this new look Velka was the undoubtabley talented but very wayward RABBIT WELL. Having proved himself the best classical steeplechaser in the Czech Republic he was now being aimed at the Velka. When he was good be was very very good with three wins this season including the First of May Chase at Lysa and the August qualifier. However he had a tendency to play up at the start and it was not unusual for him to refuse to race. This happened on his third start this season at Pardubice in June. Despite his temperament punters were prepared to take a chance on him. Next best was UNIVERSE OF GRACIE who would have Orphee des Blins jockey Jan Faltejesek on board. Winner of the May qualifier he had finished fourth the previous year. AL JAZ who had run the race of his life to nearly cause an upset the year before was also fancied although he had not won all season and the useful but inexperienced SOKOL also came in for support. He was to be ridden by Englishman Tom Garner. Mention should also be made of KLAUS, twice placed in the Velka who was making his fifth appearance in the race. For the third year running the race was run on a glorious sunny and warm autumnal afternoon and for the fourth year running Jan Faltejsek elected to make the running. UNIVERSE OF GRACIE led in the early stages from KASIM, RIBELINO and the sole foreign challenger, the French trained PASQUINI ROUGE. TER MILL made a dreadful mistake at the second but all were still standing at the Taxis. Fortunately there was not a repeat of the grim scenes of a year earlier but the big ditch did provide to much for NEBRIUS who crumpled on landing directly in the path of PARETO who was brought down. There were anxious moments for NEBRIUSs rider Jacob Kocman who was momentarily hung up in the stirrups. Yet again it was Popkovices Turn which caused problems with four coming to grief including SOKOL and moments later (and fortunately hidden from the stands behind the small wood) there was a very grim incident. A loose horse ran into PEINTRE ABSTRAIT bringing the house to the ground. As he got to his feet he appeared injured and fell to back down. Fortunately he had simply got his feet tangled in the stirrups and he was perfectly fine afterwards. Fortunately things began to calm down. UNIVERSE OF GRACIE remained in front with KASIM and HIPO JAPE close behind. TEMPLAR was making mistakes whilst ORIX was struggling in rear. At the drop fence there were mistakes form RIBELINO and GAUNER DANON. His Bulgarian jockey Sertash Ferhanov desperately clung onto the horses neck before gravity finally won out. There were no further casualties and UNIVERSE OF GRACIE remained in the lead although after the English jump there were many lining up behind him and he was looking vulnerable. REBELINO And NIKAS in particular were looking dangerous and it was NIKAS who swept past the long time leader after the third last hurdle. This was NIKAS' fourth Velka and he had twice failed to finish and was not expected to be featuring in the finish. Rider Marek Stromsky had finished first past the past in 2008 on Amant Gris but had been disqualified for missing a marker. Trainer Stanislav Popelka had been training for years but never managed to come close in the Velka. Theirs was a popular victory as NIKAS drew clear to win by three and three quarter lengths from RIBELINO and ZARIF. The favourite RABBIT WELL had consented to start but never got into the race and when he was down on his nose at the final water whatever slim chances he had evaporated. Sadly Stromskys wretched luck was to continue when NIKAS failed a post race dope test. Connections had to wait three months to learn their fate as the horses B sample was analysed. Traces of theobromine and caffeine were found in his urine sample, and the results were confirmed at the end of January 2016. There was no option but to disqualify NIKAS and award the race to RIBELINO.The Disciplinary Committee determined that the presence of these banned substances was due to incorrect labelling of food supplements supplied to the trainer. For this reason, and because of the trainers long-term good conduct and goodreputation, it was not necessary to punish him further. The result meant that veteran rider Pavel Kasny who had been champion jockey in the mid nineties would record his first Velka winner albeit by default.
VELKA PARDUBICKA A CESKOU POJISTOVNOU - 22 runners ( entries)
1st RIBELINO - Pavel Kasny 7, 68
2nd ZARIF - Josef Bartos 8, 68
3rd UNIVERSE OF GRACIE - Jan Faltejesek 10, 68
4th RABBIT WELL - Josef Vana Jnr 9, 68
5th KASIM - Marcel Novak 10, 68
6th LORAIN - Jaroslav Myska 8, 68
7th MODENA - Dusan Andres 8, 66
8th TEMPLAR - Kevin Guignon 8, 65
9th PASQUINI ROUGE - Jordan Duchene 7, 68
10th KLAUS - Raffaele Romano 10, 68
Also Ran : HIPO JAPE - P.Tuma 9 (pulled up 29th), ORIX - V.Korytar 8 (pulled up 29th), GAUNER DANON - S.Ferhanov 9 (unseated rider 15th), AMARAGON - M.Liska 10 (fell 10th), PEINTRE ABSTRAIT - C.Chan 9 (knocked over by loose horse after 6th), AL JAZ - J.Sovka 9 (fell 6th), SHERARDO - L.Sloup 11 (hampered & unseated rider 6th), SOKOL - T.Garner 8 (fell 6th), TER MILL - O.Velek 9 (hampered & unseated rider 6th), NEBRIUS - J.Kocman 7 (fell 4th), PARETO - M.Rigo 8 (brought down 4th). NIKAS - Marek Stromsky 10 (finished 1st disqualified).
Trainer : Stanislav Kovar. Time : 8 minutes 56.01 seconds (Nikas time was 8 mins 55.29 secs). Distances : 3 3/4-3 1/2-2 1/2-5-6-1 1/2-10-6-3 1/4-3.