The man is quite simply a legend - to still be riding in the Velka in his sixties is nothing short of extraordinary. I was still at school when he made his Velka debut in 1985 and twenty eight rides later he had ridden eight and trained nine winners. A relatively late entrant into racing he was in his late twenties when he first rode in the Velka having worked in jobs as varied as construction and mountain rescue as well as performing his military service. He had his fair share of horrible injuries along the way and in 1994 he technically died after a fall at Baden Baden in Germany (which resulted in him having part of his lung removed). He was back in the saddle within ten weeks. He took up training in 1995 and was champion trainer for the first time in 1997 and in terms of winners has been leading trainer every year since then. He regularly sends horses to contest the top prizes in Italy and was once even champion trainer of Germany. Having restricted his rides to the Velka and the odd prep race by 2007 he looked finished after a broken arm suffered in a last fence fall ruled him out of that years Velka and in 2009 after a lacklustre display at Albertovec he was dismissed by most racing hacks (and an amateur observer from Kent) as way past his best. Three more Velka wins on Tiumen since then and we were left marvelling at his fitness. He was supposed to have finally retired after he was uncharacteristically unseated in 2013 but he was back a year later. Tiumen was retired after the 2014 Velka and it looks like Vana has finally hung up his boots.
Josef Vanas Velka record
1985 : PARAMON - finished second but not after his mount dived head-first into the then fearsome Snake Ditch water jump (fence 17).
1986 : PARAMON - the horse clearly remembered his ducking the previous year. This time he refused, pitching Vana into the water.
1987 : ZELEZNIK - a first victory at the third time for both horse and rider and he broke the record too - the first sub-ten minute Velka.
1988 : ZELEZNIK - win number two. Not so fast this year but still easy.
1989 : ZELEZNIK - a much harder task this year as there were many pretenders to his crown but a third victory nonetheless.
1990 : ZELEZNIK - Zeleznik either won the race or failed to get round. This year he uncharacteristically refused at Popkovices Turn (7) - Vana came out the other side but without his horse.
1991 : ZELEZNIK - normal service resumed with a record fourth victory but not after the drama of being brought down at Poplars rails (13) - the greatest riding performance ever seen at Pardubice (and probably ranks alongside Fred Winters heroics aboard Mandarin).
1992 : ZELEZNIK - Zelezniks Velka career ended in anti-climax when he was brought down at the Taxis.
1993 : BAROUK - another exit at the Taxis and an anxious moment when he was momentarily caught up in the stirrups.
1994 : VYSERHRAD - Vana should not have ridden this year as this was only weeks after his near fatal fall in Germany. Vyserhrad made a lot of the running but faded and an exhausted Vana pulled up in the closing stages.
1995 : MATIA MOU - finished fourth in that rarest of things in the Velka - a blanket finish.
1996 : VRONSKY - pulled up in the closing stages but at least he gained some compensation by training the winner for the first time with Cipisek.
1997 : VRONSKY - just held on to deny the fast finishing Marketplace - a fifth win as a rider and second as a trainer.
1998 : CIPISEK - he had the choice of two former Velka winners but had no luck this year as they were both amongst nine brought down at Popkovices Turn.
1999 : VRONSKY - the horse in the twilight of his career finished an honourable sixth.
2000 : Amazingly Vana was without a ride and saddled no runners. To make up for it he did ride a treble on the card.
2001 : STORM OF FIRE - finished eighth
2002 : KEDON - Vana dreamed he would win a Velka on a white horse - this one looked to fit the bill but he could only finish third in the mud.
2003 : DECENT FELLOW - another third place on a Velka legend.
2004 : RETRIEVER - running in the colours that would be made famous by Tiumen this fragile runner chased home the legendary Registana.
2005 : KEDON - another honourable placing in fourth.
2006 : JUVENTUS - I always reckoned this one would be good enough to win a Velka - second was the best he could do - Vana trained the winner though, the popular Decent Fellow.
2007 : No ride this year due to a broken arm but he trained the winner again with Sixteen.
2008 : JUVENTUS - he lost his whip and finished down the field in sixth place - surely the time had come to hang up his boots (stick to the training Josef - another winner).
2009 - 2011 - TIUMEN - three wins and the critics were silenced.
2012 - TIUMEN - Another great performance but it was not enough this year- third
2013 - TIUMEN - The years were catching up with Tiumen and he was unluckily hampered at the last fence and we had the rare sight of Vana walking up the Pardubice home straight.
2014 -TIUMEN - Is this the swan-song ? Tiumen was always in rear this year and finished amongst the backmarkers.
Total : Eight wins as a rider - eight as a trainer