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Velka Pardubicka Steeplechase

The Velka Pardubicka - A Brief History 1874-1978

1874: The first Velka Pardubicka is run on 5th November over a course that bears little resemblance to what it is now. Fourteen horses line up to face twenty four obstacles over natural country including ditches, walls, banks , combinations and a bullfinch. Six horses complete, the winner being a six year old, Fantome ridden by an Englishman, Mr Sayers. Fantome never contests the Velka again.

1875: Brigand ridden by another Englishman, Mr Herbert wins the second Velka. He will go on to win the next two runnings,

1876: The race scheduled for 5th November is abandoned and the course is subsequently relaid, mostly within the confines of the racecourse.

1877: The race is first run over the new course and the Taxis is jumped for the first time. This fearsome obstacle with a drop and massive ditch on the landing side will become the most notorious fence on a racecourse claiming hundreds of fallers until its modification in 1994. Brigand triumphs once again.

1897: Brigand having scared off most of his opponents wins for a third and final time. He does not run in the Velka again.

1891: A five year old mare, Lady Anne wins at her first attempt. She will go on to run in the race six more times winning in 1884 and 1896.

1892 : Lady Anne and Wolf are both disqualified for bypassing one of the fences.

1899: Only three horses face the starter, Kourgon, Codon and Hattons Lowe. None finish the course and the race is declared void.

1913: Dick Turpin beats one other finisher to win the last Velka for six years as the race is suspended due to the First World War..

1920: The first post war Velka is won by Jonathon who finishes alone in the slowest ever recorded time for the race at 20 minutes, 15 seconds ! He is subsequently disqualified for finishing after the judge had left his box but all records of the race record him as the winner.

1930: Gyi Lovam! wins the race at the second attempt for the popular Captain Rudolf Poplar. They go on to contest the following years Grand National at Aintree. They fall at Bechers Brook.

1932: Captain Poplar finishes second on Gyi Lovam! who is beaten by the Austrian challenger Remus. In the race after the Velka, the Kinsky Memorial, Poplar rides the mare Ella. At the third fence, the small rails Ella falls killing Poplar. The course has changed a great deal since then but a replica of the fence stands at Pardubice behind the Grandstands. The rail fence on the new Velka course is named Poplars jump. Poplar is also honoured with a race on the Velka card which is still run to this day.

1934: The German raider Wahne is that countrys first winner of the Velka. They go on to win the next two runnings with Herold.

1937: Herold attempting to win the event for a third time falls at the Taxis. Despite breaking a clavicle he is remounted and finishes third behind the mare Norma. Norma is partnered by Countess Latya Brandislova who becomes the first woman not only to ride the winner of the Velka but to win a steeplechase in Czecholslovakia. This is to be the last Velka for eight years as the country is torn apart by war. The Germans do not to return to Pardubice.

1946: Over sixty thousand people come to watch the first post war Velka. Titan ridden by Milos Svoboda beats seven opponents, the smallest post war field. Svobodas excellent book on the race printed in 1990 to celebrate the hundredth running of the race is considered the Velka "bible".

1952: The course has its last major refit as the turn behind the grandstands is abolished. Virez provides Milos Svoboda with a second victory.

1955: During the fifties no less than five horses called Furioso take part in the race. This year two horses bearing the name run. Furioso X1V wins.

1956: The Russian Letec starts a sequence of seven consecutive Soviet trained winners of the Velka. The Russians bombard Pardubice with runners during this period, the riders mostly sporting scarlet silks. They tie elastic to their reins so they can remount quickly if they fall. The tactic clearly pays off.

1959: Epigraf, undoubtedly the best Russian of this period wins his third consecutive Velka.

1960: Epigraf is beaten into third place by his compatriots Grifel and Reljef. The following year all three are sent over to Britain to contest the Grand National. Epigraf is sadly injured ands does not line up but Reljef and Grifel lead the parade for the big race. Neither complete the course but it is a sporting challenge which sadly has not been repeated.

1963: To the delight of the home crowd the Soviet stranglehold is broken. The five Russian horses can do no better than third place. Koran wins for Frantek Vitek in his first ride. Koran is a surprise winner as he had fallen in his two previous appearances in the race.

1964: It is back to business as usual as the Russian Priboj wins.

1965: Frantek Vitek wins the Velka for a second time in three years, this time on Mocna. Most of the cheers, however, are reserved for the rider of the second horse Eva Palyzova rider of Cavalet who incidentaly is engaged to Vitek.

1966: The race is settled at Havels jump (No 27) where the Polish trained Bojgard  (hoping to give his country their first win in the Velka)  falls as does his nearest rival Nestor. Nestor`s rider, Knazik remounts quickly and takes the race whilst Bojgard fails to finish. The Poles are not to get a better chance again.

1967: Drama at the last fence when the grey Lukuva who, when in a clear lead falls at the last obstacle which is no more than a small hurdle. The Czechs watch in dismay as yet another Russian, Dresden is handed the race . It is however to be the last Russian winner for seventeen years.

1968: The race is not run due to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

1969: Normal service resumes and Korok and Vaclav Chaloupka triumph for the first time. Korok who will win two more Velkas in 1972 and 1971 is a remarkable animal as he has a deformed right leg and was nearly destroyed as a yearling.

1970: With Korok refusing at the Taxis the Bulgarian trained mare Vezna II wins. Thirteen horses finish the course although most are remounted including the winner who fell at the final water before being quickly remounted.

1973: Stephens Society and British amateur Chris Collins become the first post war challengers from Britain. They win in spectacular style having at one point been forced off the course by a riderless horse. Due to the strict rules relating to currency in Communist Czechoslovakia Collins is unable to take his prize money out of the country.

1974: Stephens Society and Collins return but are unlucky this time. After a couple of falls they finish third behind Mor who is successful at his fourth attempt having finished third and second twice in previous Velkas.

1975: Flang becomes Czechoslovakias answer to Devon Loch. This amazing animal contests the Velka eight times and has already finished third and fourth. This year he is clear having jumped the last and victory looks assured. Then to the horror of the crowd a riderless horse, Bledak running the wrong way up the home straight collides with him knocking rider Grasslem out of the saddle. This tragic accident occurs only yards from the winning post. Mor is handed a second and very lucky victory.

1977: Charlotte Brew fresh from her historic ride on Barony Fort in this years Grand National attempts the Velka. They come to grief at the last water jump.

 

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