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.