LANCASTER and CONTINENTAL first two home in 1978 returned as did the 1976 hero LIMIT. The nineteen strong field were sent off on their way and as usual the pace was fast and furious. ALBION, SABENA and the Bulgarian MAVR were amongst the early leaders. FLORET blundered at the first water but there were no other problems as the field made their way intact to the Taxis. On the approach to the fence an unusually large number of horses bunched up towards the inside leaving ALBION is splendid isolation on the outer. ALBION cleared the big ditch magnificenty but on the inside there was chaos as the leading seven runners all crumpled in an untidy heap. In the chaos both LANCASTER and CONTINENTAL were brought down. It was the most unbelievable pile up. As well as ALBION only LIMIT, LEGENDA and FLORET had cleared the fence successfully whilst an incredible fourteen horses had fallen whilst the only ever challenger from East Germany DESPOTA wisely decided to give the fence a miss. Amazingly for such a grisly pile up no horse was injured and indeed eight of the fallen horses were so quick on their feet they managed to escape the usual mad yet hopeless attempts of the fallen jockey to remount. The eight made a splendid sight as they raced into the wood and continued to race around the hurdles course long after the race had finished. Kasal on LANCASTER was quick to remount and the four survivors seemed to slow down to allow the champions to catch up as by Fence 10 they had actually managed to take the lead. LANCASTER was a splendid looking horse and whilst he was somewhat a slow and deliberate jumper horse and rider made a fine sight as they cleared fence after fence in front of LIMIT. Both leaders took differing paths after Poplars fence with LIMIT avoiding the plough. LIMIT faded slightly after the wall and it was FLORET, who had earlier thrown away a clear lead with a refusal at the "In and Out" who joined LANCASTER. The two cleared the Snake Ditch water jump which for one year only did not cause any problems. In fact the Big Water was also surpringly trouble free save for poor SILIKAT who hesitated and ended up with both horse and rider being submerged in the deep water. The race looked to be between FLORET and LANCASTER but poor FLORET was clearly having difficulty at the "In and Out" this year as he fell at the final part. Both horse and rider were quickly on their feet and rider Juranek seemed unperturbed by the fact that his helmet had been knocked off as he prepared to remount bare headed. LANCASTER was now left clear and he looked home and dry. LIMIT and LEGENDA (who made a mess of Havels jump) continued some way ahead of the very slow ALBION and the remounted LAMPAS. Somehow LANCASTER who was still clear at Havels did not last home. Two hurdles out whilst still in the lead it was clear that the champion was going less well than his two pursuars and both LIMIT and LEGENDA soon effortlessly swept past him. The two cleared the last hurdle together but a final sprint from LEGENDA was enough to win the race for the mare. At six she looked to have more Velkas in her but sadly it was not to be. Whilst being prepared for a second tilt at the race she suffered an injury in training and was retired. She subsequently gave birth to two foals and lived for many years at Brno in the company of another mare who was blind.
The 1980 Velka was run on a miserable wet day. For a change there was some incident before the Taxis. The blinkered LAHIRE dug his toes in and refused to start, LILAC unseated at the second and MALACHIT took a heavy fall at the small water. It was Vaclav Chaloupka, sporting headgear that looked more at home on a speedway circuit who led the way towards the Taxis. LANCASTER this year was trying to keep out of trouble and positioned himself in the middle of the field with clear daylight either side of him. There was the predictable carnage at the Taxis with nine fallers but once again there was no serious injury to the horses at least. Several horses were quickly on their feet but they were not quick enough for the sprightly jockeys this year and six were remounted. LANCASTER once again found himself in front from MONZA, VAT and CONTINENTAL. There were no more fallers until the "snake ditch" where VAT came down and suddenly the race appeared to be between LANCASTER and a newcomer SIMON who looked a very quirky individual sporting his spectacular red and white spotted blinkers. MONZA sudddenly dropped back on the approach to the Big Water where there was more trouble but for some reason the Czech TV cameras decided to concentrate on the two leaders and all the incident behind was ignored. For the rest of the race only SIMON and LANCASTER were shown on camera as they raced alone in splendid isolation with LIMIT a very distant third. LANCASTERs challenge folded after Havels jump and SIMON went on to record a very easy victory. Quite how the TV audience reacted to the coverage of the latter stages of the race is not recorded.
There were only two Soviet horses this year but there were very high hopes for their nine year old DIAF who was making his Velka debut. Favourite in a field of twenty two was another debutant the very impressive six year old SAGAR who had run up a sequence of ...wins. Former winners SIMON and LANCASTER were also in the field which were dispatched at the first time of asking. There was the usual mad dash over the first few fences with CONTINENTAL, DIAF, LAMPAS and the striking white faced ZABOJ all to the fore. There was however, tragedy towards the rear of the field when the usually trouble free second fence claimed LANCASTER who landed awkwardly unseating his rider. Running loose onto the hurdles course it was clear this magnificent horse was injured. ZABOJ cleared the Taxis in the lead whilst horses crashed all around him. In a scene similar to 1979 it seemed as if over half the field had crashed out and in last place little SAGAR, stumbled badly and almost came to a complete stop as he and his rider Pavel Liebich picked themselves through the stationary horses waiting patiently to be remounted. DIAF had been a casualty but rider Kasajev was quickly on his feet but he lost valuable time as he tried to untangle the reins which had become stuck around his mounts legs. CONINENTAL, ZABOJ and FLORET had all cleared the Taxis safely and they disputed the lead as the pace dropped dramatically over the first plough. By the In and Out the leaders had almost come to a complete standstill which of course allowed DIAF to make up valuable ground. Sensing he was in front too soon CONTINENTALs rider Safar was having his arms pulled put as he tried to steady his horse after jumping the tenth fence. As the main body of the field slowed almost to a walk it was left to DIAF and last years hero, the quirky SIMON to take the lead and the two disputed the lead over the next few fences. SAGAR was going well in about sixth pace slightly ahead of the perennially remounted LAMPAS who had yet again been forced to continue after a third successive fall at the Taxis. On the approach to Poplars rails SIMON came to a a complete stop and Knapek had to resort to supreme coaxing tactics to get the wayward horse to get going again. He did but seemed to hate running on the plough so Knapek changed course, allowed his mount to run onto the turf and although he lost many many lengths they were still in the race as the survivors made their way to the "drop". By now there were only about nine horses left with any chance. DIAF led followed by SAGAR with FLORET, LIMIT, CONTINENTAL, LAMPAS, ZABOJ, SIMON and the outsider DOLAR. The stone wall usually incident free almost claimed FLORET who made an almighty mess of the fence but his amateur rider Baracek somehow managed to keep the partnership intact. SAGAR led over the water from DIAF didnt` get far enough and got a ducking but yet again his Soviet rider was quick on his feet. This time, however, he was given a nasty surprise in the form of LIMIT who gave him an almighty clout almost knocking Kasajev off his feet. By the big water the race was between SAGAR who had a clear advantage, LIMIT and FLORET with SIMON doing his best to run off the course. The blinkered hero of 1980 walked into the water giving viewers a close up view of just how deep the water in this fearsome obstacle was. SIMON somehow managed to stay on his feet, ZABOJ was not so lucky and he splashed out of the race. With the pace slowing again the race from thereon in was little more than a procession as SAGAR increased his lead. FLORET stayed on at a very slow one pace whilst CONTINENTAL and LAMPAS both tried to refuse at the English jump, six fences from home. I say tried, LAMPAS succeeded and even the ever hopeful Vinklarek had to call it a day whilst CONTINENTAL somehow managed to walk through the fence and continue. SAGAR was slow over the last big obstacle, Havels jump and Liebech called a cab but the result was never in doubt and he recorded an extremely easy twelve length win over the fast finishing DIAF who just pipped CONINENTAL for second. Sadly we said we had to say goodbye to LANCASTER but there was a new kid was in town.
A massive field of twenty five went to post this year (one less than the record set in 1967). SAGAR was once again a hot favourite and once more the Soviets had come out in force to try and stop him. Youngsters VEK and NABOR were their main challengers both making their Velka debut whilst DIAF who had had such a hard race the year before returned. Veterans CONTINENTAL and FLORET now both fourteen years old were back for one final try. But these were babies compared to one entrant who did raise some eyebrows. FLANG, so unlucky in 1975 was making an incredbile seventh appearance in the race at the venerable age of sixteen some five years after he had chased Vaclav home in 1977. The Brits were also making a welcome return having been away since 1977. Their entry was PAHANG ridden by an enthusiastic (and rather portly) amateur called Saunders. The larger than normal field did cause starter Jiri Sindlar some problems but after one false start the field were dispatched at their usual breakneck pace. DIAFSs race had ended before the field had reached the Taxis but his compatriot ALGIR flew the ditch in the lead where there were the usual high amount of falls (including LAMPAS for the third year running) although thankfully most of the horses and riders were quickly on their feet and a larger number than normal were remounted. Whilst the Taxis had thankfully spared the horses there was tragedy at the Irish Bank where PAHANG and Saunders perhaps not used to such an obstacle tried to jump the fence and, clipping the top of the bank the horse came down clearly injured. The Soviets as usual were ensuring a fast pace with VEK, NABOR and ALGIR disputing the lead. VEK led at the "In and Out" but took the fence far to fast running out carrying others with him. ALGIR then took over until he slipped up on the flat on the turn approaching Poplars rails. Then it was NABORs turn, clearing the Snake Ditch in style followed by VEK and SAGAR who was as usual running his patient race. By the second "In and Out" the race was between these three although the Soviets still had a twenty length advantage as they entered the final phase of the race. VEK, perhaps showing signs of tiredness was untidy over the Big English Ditch and NABOR made the final Soviet bid for glory after the third last hurdle. It was clear however that SAGAR was toying with the Soviets who once again had gone too fast too early and were simply unable to last home. Sweeping past NABOR after the second last hurdle Liebich pushed SAGAR to his second victory which is genuinely considerd to be the finest moment of his great career.
2nd VEK - N.Chludejev 6, 69 (ran out 9th continued)
3rd NABOR - Ch Kasajev 7, 66
4th ODA - Mr Jaroslav Brecka 11, 71
5th JAMAHA - Jaromir Stohanzl 6, 70.5
6th FLORET - Mr P.Baracek 14, 67.5
Also ran : GUSYRA - Libor Stencl 7 (fell 4th remounted fell 6th remounted fell 17th remounted pulled up 25th), FLANG - M.Zajicek 16 (fell 17th remounted fell 18th remounted refused 20th continued pulled up 25th), MONZA - P.Hytych 10 (ran out 9th continued fell 19th), ALGIR - M.Tokov 7 (slipped up bend after 13th remounted fell 18th), POLLY EXPRES - Josef Bartos 6 (fell 18th), KLOTILD - Karel Vit 7 (unseated rider 17th), BOMBAY - J.Zajicek 11 (fell 4th remounted pulled up 14th), LAMPAS - Vladimir Vinklarek 9 (fell 4th remounted refused 10A continued fell 12th), CONTINENTAL - Jan Havlicek 14 (unseated rider 10A), AMBROZIJA - Petr Vozab 7 (fell 4th remounted fell 7th remounted pulled up 10th), MANGALIA - P.Valkony 7 (pulled up 8th), VEMJAN - J.Hala 9 (fell 4th remounted pulled up 9th), SZEPITO - A.Vogel 6 (fell 4th remounted fell 7th), PAHANG - Mr George Saunders 10 (fell 5th), AGABA - N.Sevcenko 7 (fell 4th), VERNE - J.Zlatnik 9 (fell 4th), CAHUNA - J.Blabolil 6 (fell 4th), DIAF - I.Verovkin 10 (pulled up 3rd), HANACKA - J.Kasal 7 (fell 2nd).
Non Runners : Batu, Chan, Limit, Nemtudom.
Trainer : Vaclav Cermak. Distances : 18-6-distance-8-16. Time : 10 mins 12.4 secs. Time : 10 mins 12.4 secs
9th October 1983
Eighteen horses sought to try and lower SAGARs colours. Of the Soviets only ALGIR returned yet there were high hopes for a newcomer, EROT who was one of a smaller than usual three strong Soviet contingent. Mr Saunders clearly not put off by the tragic events the year before was back with another horse, FRENCH POP and two other English amateurs a Mr Goring and Mr Roberts were inspired to take up the challenge aboard BEGINAGIN and WELLS FARGO respectively. WELLS FARGO was one of the first away and disputed the lead at the Taxis with JAWAN. For a fourth striaght year LAMPAS and Vladimir Vinklarek were amongst the fallers and for a fourth straight year he was one of those remounted although they were only to get as far as the sixth fence this year. Whilst the Taxis has posed WELLS FARGO no problems he had been reluctant to get over the Irish Bank yet despite this he held a clear lead at the "In and Out" but he refused at both parts of the obstacle and although he was eventually coaxed over his chance was lost. BEGINAGIN was running well but as was becoming a regular event a Soviet horse was in front. EROT was clear of JAWAN, BEGINAGIN and POLLY EXPRES with SAGAR in mid-division. Despite his clear lead EROT seemed to be ridden with slightly more restraint than the Soviets of previous years. EROT remained in front with a larger than normal number behind him albeit many (including brave FLANG at seventeen) were furlongs behind ! Approaching the twenty third fence EROT was still clear of JAWAN. For the first time in his magnificent Velka career SAGAR was appearing to be struggling in third place and Liebich was seen to give SAGAR a couple of "reminders". Approaching the final three hurdles EROT still led but once again the burden of making most of the running was beginning to tell yet it was JAWAN who looked the most likely of the pursuars to prevail as SAGAR was still some way behind the leading pair. Inevitably EROT folded and JAWAN took the lead. SAGAR made his customary late challenge at the second last and whilst JAWAN stayed with him as they entered the home straight for a third year runing SAGAR was able to sweep past his opponent with contemptuous ease. This year Liebich allowed his emotions to show and he raised his arm in triumph acknowledging the stunning feat of probably the greatest ever Czech horse to grace the Pardubice turf. JAWAN in his first Velka was a gallant second whilst EROT who had perfomed with more restraint and dignity than some of his compatriots finished a distance behind in third place. SAGAR was still only eight years old. Who was to say he would not win another three or even more Velkas ?
Also Ran : KLOTILD - J.Puspoky 8 (pulled up 30th), FLANG - P.Kantek 17 (fell 6th remounted fell 17th remounted pulled up 20th), AZAT - Vaclav Chaloupka 11 (fell 17th), LINGUA - M.Kantek 8 (fell 4th remounted refused 17th), BORG - M.Vlcek 6 (fell 4th remounted refused 16th), VEMJAN - J.Hala 10 (fell 4th remounted pulled up 10th), FRENCH POP - Mr George Saunders 9 (refused 6th continued & fell at same fence), LAMPAS - Vladimir Vinklarek 10 (fell 4th remounted fell 6th), KAPELLAN - Ch Kasajev 6 (pulled up 4th).
Non Runners : Geraklion, Hubac, Lysander, Durman
Trainer : Vaclav Cermak. Distances : 20-distance-20-distance-distance. Time : 10 mins 28 secs.
14th October 1984
Sadly Sagar was absent from this and all future Velkas, suffering a serious injury to his foreleg in a race at Pardubice in August. Sagar was therefore retired at the comparitively young age of eight to his owners stud. Rider Pavel Leibich perhaps knowing that he would never again ride such a great horse hung up his boots as well. Sagar was to lead the Velka parade in 1986, 1988 and 1990. He suffered a heart attack and died in 1993. Eight of the sixteen strong field had lined up in 1983 including JAWAN and EROT second and third behind Sagar twelve months before. The Soviet FUTBOL, VALENCIO and EROT disputed the lead during the usual break-neck pace to the Taxis. EROT was lucky to survive as both VALENCIO and FUTBOL came down heavily either side of him and immediately behind there were several nasty looking falls. It was the worst pile up since 1979 and only EROT, BLISTR, JAWAN, FESTIVAL and GABR had survived. Such was the carnage only two horses, VALENCIO and KAPPELLAN were able to remount and continue although neither got much further. With JAWAN taking an uncharacteristic tumble at Fence 10A the race was left between EROT, FESTIVAL and BLISTR who raced together in front of the stunned stands. With BLISTR departing at the final water the race became a match between the Soviet and the local hope ironically running in the colours of Sagar. FESTIVAL had had a difficult Velka on his debut in 1983 but was now jumping with far more confidence yet he was never able to get on terms with EROT who perhaps deserved his moment of glory. No one could have known it at the time but EROT proved to be the last ever Soviet trained winner of the race. With the collapse of communism in 1989 and serious financial problems jump racing in Russia was severely curtailed in the nineties and whilst racing remains popular jumping has now all but disappeared.
Also Ran : BLISTR - V.Juhas (fell 18th), VALENCIO - J.Vasut (fell 4th remounted fell 8th), KAPELLAN - A.Zazin 7 (fell 4th remounted refused 5th continued fell 8th), URSUS - J Sajicek 8 (fell 4th), DUKAT - Karel Kuchovsky 7 (fell 4th), BOLID - P.Valkony 8 (fell 4th), POLLY EXPRES - Josef Bartos 8 (brought down 4th), FUTBOL - Ch Kasajev 6 (fell 4th), BORG - Karel Zajko 7 (unseated rider 4th), LYSANDER - Jan Havlicek 9 (fell 4th), LINGUA - M.Kantek 9 (unseated rider 4th), EMANUEL - J.Olejnicki 10 (fell 4th),
Non Runners : Azat, Dokker, Vat
Trainer : G.Chajanin in Soviet Union. Distances : 10 - distance - 20 . Time : 10 minutes 48.9 seconds
6th October 1985
After the carnage of 1984 entry conditions were tightened for the 1985 renewal resulting in just twenty one entries (twenty down from the previous year). Only eleven lined up but it was a good field. Reigning champion EROT was back as was FESTIVAL and JAWAN. There were also high hopes for a seven year old colt called ESSEX ridden by Vaclav Chaloupka. They were to make history the following April by becoming the first Czech horse in fifty years to contest the Grand National at Aintree. ESSEX was a headstrong little colt and he went into an early lead with SANTOS. The Pardubice executive no doubt let out a collected sigh of relief as only two horses came down, ironically both Soviet challengers PANSIONAT and EROT who took an uncharacteristic tumble. For some reason Popkovices turn was not included this year and the runners instead took a snall fence in the middle of the wood. ESSEX remained in the lead yet he came down at the usually trouble free fence seven and whilst Chaloupka quickly remounted he was not able to coax the little colt over the "In and Out". The seven survivors, led by the sole surviving Russian ELDA settled down and by the time the horses had crossed the stone wall in front of the stands only ZELEZNIK had dropped out with a broken stirrup at the thirteenth. Having been a relatively incident free race there was sensation at the seventeenth, the notorious Snake-Ditch water . Leader BORG appeared hesitant and fell into the fence immediately followed by PARAMON. FESTIVAL struggled but got through the water with the partnership with jockey Vozab intact. ELDA and outsider VEMIN were not so lucky and both took spectacular dives, VEMIN giving both herself and her a jockey a good ducking. As with twelve months before FESTIVAL found himself left with just one horse to beat after the eighteenth , this time it was SANTOS who had been campaigned heavily all season as he had desperately tried to qualify for the Velka. SANTOS was a frail looking animal and by the English Jump where he almost had to drag himself over the fenc it was clear that he was not up to the task. FESTIVAL took the lead and was thereafter never in danger running out a very easy winner from the remounted PARAMON and the exhausted SANTOS. Whilst no Sagar, FESTIVAL was a worthy winner who had been able to continue the successful run of the Kadruby stud. The famous black and white quartered colours are still seen on Czech racecourses (under the name "Vasury Kolesa") although they are have not won the Velka again.