Racegoers scanning the racecard as the horses paraded in front of the stands before the 103rd Velka were left scratching their heads and asking "where did all the runners go ?" Seventeen horses were declared in the racecard but only nine were allowed to start. In response to the recent protests the authorities introduced a rigorous vetinary examination for all prospective Velka runners. If you didn`t pass the vets you weren`t allowed to run. Such was the zeal of this initial inspection that eight horses were failed including sensationally the reigining champion Quirinus. Therefore the smallest field since 1946 went to post. The two horses left that attracted the most attention were two ex-Russian horses both now trained by Frantisek Holcak, ERUDIT, who had won last years Labe Prize and RIGOLETTO who had finished third in that race. Both had won for their new connections this season at Pardubice. Tight security had kept the protestors off the course although just before post time a lone balloon was let off into the skies with the words "STOP" displayed on a banner. With only nine runners the start posed no problems as Jiri Sindler sent them on their way. The Russian challenger DOGOVAR went off at a frightening pace and was clear on the approach to the Taxis. The Russian was clearly not up to the task as the horse swerved on the approach to the fence unseating jockey Truscenko into the path of RHODE who also refused. ERUDIT and VERAMON led but both fell as did BAROK & UNISONO in rear. BARTOKs rider Josef Vana had an anxious moment as he tried to free himself from the stirrups as the horse got to his feet. Just three horses RIGOLETTO, MIKI and the outsider FARAD had cleared the Taxis successfully. Only UNISONO and the ever game Vladimir Vinklarek were remounted but their challenge ended tamely at the sixth. The vast crowd were "entertained" by the sight of just three horses making their way home. The order didn`t change , RIGOLETTO and MIKI first and second with FARAD a couple of lengths behind. MIKI refused at the English jump throwing Jan Havlicek into the fence and whilst FARAD tried to take advantage and get closer to RIGOLETTO the result was never in doubt. Both horses took the last flight of hurdles but only RIGOLETTO passed the finishing post. Just before jumping the hurdle FARADs action went and almost immediatley after jumping Zdenik Matysik jumped off him to inspect the horses legs. The horse was lame and did not cross the line leaving RIGOLETTO as the only finisher. Matysiks gesture in not forcing the horse to complete the hundred or so yards to the line was much appreciated by the Pardubice authorities who awarded the horses connectons the prize money. Matysik also won the 1993 Fair Play award presented by the Czech Olympic Committee. As for RIGOLETTO his Velka record was quite remarkable. He had earlier finished tailed off last of eleven finishers in the 1990 Velka and was to run in one more in 1995 when he again finished tailed off last of ten finishers. He therefore remains to my knowledge the only Velka winner never to have beaten another horse. The 1993 race will be remembered as a terminally dull affair and the crowds may well have felt short changed as the greatest race in the Czech calender was reduced to a boring three runner affair. It was no longer acceptable to have two thirds of the field wiped out so early in the race. The time had come for change.
Trainer : Frantisek Holcak. Time : 10 mins 29 secs.
9th October 1994
A new era dawned at Pardubice following the difficulties of the past two years. There had been changes to the course during the eighties with modifications to the dry ditch, big water and the "in and out" but these paled in comparison to the widespread changes that were made before the 1994 season. The Taxis which saw its gaping ditch finally filled in. Of course the fence still was and remains to this day absolutely huge but the spread of the fence was reduced to make it a fairer and safer test of horse and rider. Whilst no fence was removed from the course and the runners still faced the same thirty one fences as they would have done a year earlier every fence was modified in some way. The executive even decided to install an oval "conventional" steeplechase course on the inside of the cross country course. If the traditionaluists were unhappy at that they only had to wait a year before flat racing was introduced at Pardubice ! Nineteen horses passed the vets and they included the first British runner for four years, IT`S A SNIP trained by Lambourn handler Charlie Mann and to everyones surprise ridden by him too. Charlie was a "journeyman" jockey of the late seventies and eighties with over a hundred winners to his name. However he had not ridden in a race since he had broken his back in a fall at Warwick in 1989. He had somehow managed to get a licence to ride from the British Arab Racing Society and lined up as a 6-1 shot. The 1994 Velka is the gap in my DVD collection so I have never seen the race. The Taxis did claim two scalps, MATIA MOU and and PACHA DE FERCE giving his rider Monsieur Boquet a taste of what it is like to fall at a pre-modified and modified Taxis. Thereafter falls were almost non-existant with only SARTORI coming to giref thereafter at the English Jump. The Pardubice executive were rewarded for their efforts with an amazing thirteen horses completing the ocurse without mishap. These included Vladimir Vinklarek on UNISONO who must have been delighted not only not to have fallen at the Taxis but to have completed the course without having to have remounted. The very convincing winner was the former Russian trained ERUDIT ridden by the flamboyant Vladiskav Snitkovskij. Charlie Mann gave his supporters a good run for his money finishing twelve lengths behind in second palce and immediately vowed to return.
Also Ran : VYSEHRAD - Josef Vana 7 (pulled up 28th), SARTORI - M.Kantek 6 (unseated rider 25th), HERERA - Dusan Andres 8 (pulled up 16th), SERAPHINA - Miroslav Fencl 10 (pulled up 5th), MATIA MOU - Vlastimil Spalek 9 (fell 4th), PACHA DE FERCE - Mr A.Bocquet 10 (fell 4th)
Non runners : Balu, Genora, Rampa, Viana
Trained by : Frantisek Holcak. Distances : 12-12-5-3/4-3/4-4-7-16-8-11-distance. Time : 10 minutes 06.7 seconds
8th October 1995
ITS A SNIP returned to Pardubice again trained and ridden by Charlie Mann. Since his second place the previous year he had run in the Aintree Grand National where, starting at 150-1 he had been unseated at the twelfth fence. Whilst he was strongly fancied to go one better it was the French trained LIMONAIRE, winner of the 1994 Grand Steeplechase de Flanders at Waregem in Belgium who started favourite. With Erudit missing through injury the most fancied of the home team was DRAK trained by Vaclav Chaloupka who had finished second to Zeleznik in 1991. He won the June qualifier where he had beaten LORIENT, MIRANO and CHALCEDON who had all finished the 1994 Velka. In all ten of the sixteen strong field had contested last years race and all except MATIA MOU had completed the course. The latter, however was quietly fancied having won the September qualifier. Two former winners of the race QUIRINUS & RIGOLETTO were having their first attempt at the race since their respective triumphs but both were considered to be past their best. On a dull and overcast day the sixteen runners were sent on their way and again the pace was fast to the Taxis with the whole field negotiating the early fences without mishap. DRAK led at the Taxis anc became the races first casualty shortly followed by UNISONO and the French trained URANIUM who was giving poor Monsieur Bocquet his third successive fall at the fence. UNISONOs jockey Vladimir Vinklarek clearly forgetting the strict rules on remounting had managed to hold onto the reins and was quickly back in the saddle. LIMONAIRE and MIKI were amongst the leaders at the "In and Out" but or the approach to the fence the leaders bunched up and LIMONAIRE was unsighted and unseated jockey Klerparski. In rear British rider Robert Crosby having a second Velka ride on KAMBALDA RAMBLER refused while Jaroslav Brecka on MIRANO was unseated but somehow staying on his feet and clinging to the horses reins was dragged through the second part of the fence and was able to remount . With MIKI and HYPNOS disappearing shortly thereafter ten runners were left standing as the race settled down with IT'S A SNIP disputing the lead with RHODE, LORIENT and the mare VINNY. Jockey Zdeno Koplik seemed to be having all sorts of problems with his reins on VINNY and was being given a very uncomfortable ride. The surviving ten runners were tightly packed throughout until QUIRINUS blundered at the final water and the former winner started to drop back. By Havels jump RIGOLETTO was sending out distress signals as RHODE, MATIA MOU and MIRANO made their bid for glory. IT'S A SNIP who had never been out of the first four throughout the race let the other three make their move but Mann cool and collected waited for them to tire. First MATIA MOU and then MIRANO were quietly picked off and on the entrance to the straight only RHODE stood between Mann and glory. Taking the lead on the approach to the last IT'S A SNIP had a clear advantage but the Czechs had not given up and VINNY in particular was making up ground quickly. The crowds were treated to an unprecedented sight of six horse in a line powering up the home straight with only a couple of lengths separating them. IT'S A SNIP who looked at the last that as if he was going to power home by several lengths but suddenly he seemed to lose his action and stopped. In a matter of strides VINNY, MIRANO and MATIA MOU were almost upsides him. When all looked lost IT's A SNIP got a second wind and just as VINNY got to within a whisker of taking the lead the British horse powered on and actually won quite comfortably although he had not made it easy for his connections .VINNY, MIRANO, CHALCEDON and MATIA MOU crossed the line almost together ahead of poor RHODE who looked to have broken down. In all ten had finished and there had been no grief at all during the final two thirds of the race. To the delight of the very vocal British and Irish contingent in the crowd Mann acknowledged the cheers and perhaps not surprisingly announced his retirement from the saddle for a second and final time. There was some controversy after the race with both MIRANO and UNISONO being disqualified for remounting. The rules stated that no horse could be remounted if the horses hip flank or shoulder had touched the ground and the jockey had touched the ground by any means other than his feet. Whilst Vinklarek on UNISONO had clearly broken the rules Jaroslav Brecka claimed quite rightly that he had only touched the ground with his feet as he had been dragged through the Ninth fence. The video of the race shows this to be the case but the stewards stood firm and a subsequent appeal to the courts was lost. What did emerge from the controversy was a change in the rules which allowed a horse to be remounted once in the Velka. IT'S A SNIP ran once more in the Velka finishing third for Richard Dunwoody in 1996 but sadly broke down on his next start on the Cheltenham Cross Country course and was retired.
Also Ran : HYPNOS - M.Fencl 7 (unseated rider 10A), MIKI - Jan Havlicek 10 (refused 10th), LIMONAIRE - Roland Kleparski 9 (unseated rider 9th), KAMBALDA RAMBLER - Mr Robert Crosby (refused 9th), DRAK - Jaromir Stohanzl 11 (fell 4th), URANIUM - Mr A.Bocquet 9 (fell 4th), MIRANO - Jaroslav Brecka 9 (unseated rider 9th remounted finished 3rd disqualified), UNISONO - Vladimir Vinklarek 8 (fell 4th remounted finished 7th disqualified)
Non Runners : Uriquarat , Lydka.
Trainer : Charlie Mann in the UK. Distances : 1 1/4-1 1/4-neck-neck-8-10-15-distance-distance. Time : 10 mins 03.43 secs.
13th October 1996
The Brits were back in town and this year they really meant business. Champion jockey Richard Dunwoody had secured the ride on IT`S A SNIP whilst Ferdy Murphy who was to become a good friend to Pardubice saddled his first runner IRISH STAMP who was to be partnered by Norman Williamson. The Sue Brammall trained VELEDA II made history by becoming the races` first Irish trained runner. The British contingent aroused great interest in the local press and the jockeys were treated like superstars (for a first hand account of the trip see the chapter on IT`S A SNIP in "Hands and Heels" written by Dunwoody and Marcus Armytage (Partridge Press 1997)). On a glorious sunny and warm day Jiri Sindlar sent them off in a rather ragged line and with VRONSKY, FURTARDO and CELKAR amongst the leaders the field seemed to be going at a slightly more sedate pace than usual. LYDKA cleared the Taxis in the lead whilst on the far side VRONSKY made an almighty mess of the ditch and slithered to the ground as his stable companion FURTARDO became the races first casualty. Sandwiched between the two Vana trained horses was CELKAR who`s rider was knocked out of the saddle although Lasek was quick to remount. On the near side two others came down, RENTO and the little grey DOUBLE ODDS on whom British jockey Guy Lewis had picked up a brief spare ride. Last to clear the Taxis was Frenchman Andre Bocquet who had finally cleared the fence at his fourth attempt. Unfortunately that was as good as it got for Monsieur Bocquet this year as his mount URANIUM said "non" to the the Irish Bank and Bocquet was unceremoniously unseated and out of the race. LYDKA continued in the lead as IT`S A SNIP came up to join the mare at the seventh fence and the two of them continued to share the lead throughout most of the race. After the grief early on there were few spills in the middle part of the race although Ken Whelen had an anxious moment as he was thown over VELEDA`s head as the pair cleared the second part of the "In and Out" but somehow he managed to keep the partnership intact. IT`S A SNIP dominated the television coverage with lots of close ups of "Mister Jockey Richard Dunwoody" (commentators words not mine). The old horse was certainly giving Dunwoody an armchair ride. VELEDA II was jumping well too but all hopes of an Irish triumph were dashed at fence twenty four when the horse landed too steeply and fell. By now the handsome looking CIPISEK, trained by Josef Vana was coming to the fore. Ridden by the larger than life Russian Vladimir Snitkovskij they had until now played a wating game in mid-division. As IT`S A SNIP cleared Havels ahead of IRISH STAMP and CIPISEK it did look like we would have a British one two. The Russian clearly had other ideas and after the third last hurdle Snitkovskij made his move. Sweeping past ITS A SNIP they were suddenly several lengths clear. IT`S A SNIP had nothing left to give and in a a matter of strides he was relegated to third place by IRISH STAMP who set off in lone pursuit of the Russian. CIPISEK and IRISH STAMP turned for home together yet the big horse was always going the better and ran on to record a fairly easy victory by four and a half lengths. IRISH STAMP and IT`S A SNIP finished beihind him ahead of eight other finishers. The 1996 Velka is considered a classic and CIPISEK was certainly an above average winner. This lightly raced eight year old was winning his sixth race in an eleven race career and he did look the sort that would win the Velka again. Sadly it was not to be as after winning his next start in May 1997 he was injured and was forced to miss that years Velka. He ran in the race in 1998 and started third favourite but but came down in the melee at Popkovices Turn and suffered career ending injuries. For Snitkovskij the 1996 Velka his last big winner. He continued riding in the Czech Republic until 2002 but never hit the same heights again. He returned home to Russia and with the collapse of Russian jumping he now concentrates on eventing.
Also Ran : VRONSKY - Josef Vana 8 (pulled up 30th), MIRAINO - Jaroslav Brecka 10 (pulled up 25th), VELEDA II - Ken Whelen 9 (fell 24th), VINNY - Zdeno Koplik (pulled up 24th), CELKAR - Zdenek Lasek (brought down 4th remounted pulled up 12th), CEST - Frantisek Jasinsky 6 (fell 7th), MATIA MOU - Pavel Szikora 11 (fell 6th), URANIUM - Mr A.Bocquet 10 (refused & unseated rider 5th), DOUBLE ODDS - Guy Lewis 8 (fell 4th), FURTARDO - Vlastimil Spalek 7 (fell 4th), RENTO - Tomas Nehasil (unseated rider 4th)
Non Runners : Drak, Scater, Vinci, Bockmann`s Choice, Prohra
Trainer : Josef Vana. Distances : 4 1/2-distance-distance-2 1/2-12-17-19-distance-distance. Time : 9 minutes 35.1 seconds
Interesting fact : Vladimir Snitkovskij was due to ride Double Odds but fell out with the horses owners and was switched at the last minute to Cipisek. Lucky break as Guy Lewis was due to have ridden Cipisek. He swopped wth Snitkovskij.
12th October 1997
This year the race attracted no British entries and no media coverage whatsoever in the UK but there were American cameras present at Pardubice recording a half hour instalment in the "Horse in Sport" series. The programme featured several of the runners in the build up to the big race including Guy Lewis who returned to the Czech Republic to ride BADDELLIOS, a very unexperienced and headstrong colt trained by Vaclav Chaloupka. Amazingly none of the ten horses who had finished the Velka twelve months ago were present in the fourteen strong line up and it was the Josef Vana trained and ridden VRONSKY who started favourite. He was one of only three horses who had run in the 1996 Velka and he had got the furthest last year, pulling up in the closing stages. This year he was unbeaten in three starts including the August qualifier. In the preliminaries BADDELLIOS was proving to be something of a handful and Lewis was only just able to get him over the practice jump. Worse was to come on the way down to the start when the horse slipped and was nearly on the floor. There was drama in the early stages of the race when the fancied grey CEST clipped the heels of the horse in front of him and came down after jumping the second fence. BADDELLIOS who had started slowly was disputing the lead with HOLAN as the field bore down on the Taxis. BADDELLIOS was taking far too strong a hold and as he cleared the massive fence Lewis leant back in the saddle in attempt to try and steady the horse. Unfortunately he leant too far back and as the horse ran towards the Irish bank Lewis fell off much to Chaloupkas annoyance. HOLAN was down as well but jockey Lasek had managed to hold onto the reins and for the second year in succession was quick to remount. For Frenchman Andre Bocquet it was yet another fall at the Taxis - his fourth in five attempts. PERUAN and last years hero Vladimir Snitkovskij was left in front but perhaps unsighted by the riderless BADDELLIOS the horse sensationally ran out at the Irish Bank. This left veteran and serial remounter Vladimir Vinklarek in front on GART (a horse who had never won a race before) in the lead. For Vinklarek this was to be his thirteenth and final ride in a Velka career that had started as along ago as 1979. Not only did Vinklarek not fall this year (for only the second time) he spent most of the race up with the leaders. PERUAN had remarkably re-joined the leading ranks by fence 10A and MARKETPLACE and GRETTY ridden by Lucie Baluchova were also to the fore. PERUAN held a clear lead as the horses raced towards the Drop fence in front of the stands. PERUAN was a Pardubice course specialist who whilst he was making a belated Velka debut at the age of nine had won supporting races on the Velka card for the past two years. To the surprise of the vast crowds PERUAN seemed to be "spooked" by the bank and stopped, Snitkovskij was thrown over the horses head and immediately behind VARADERO`s rider fell off in identical fashion. That left just nine left and there was no further incident as the nine runners bunched together and raced almost as one until VRONSKY made a move after the american rails. GART running the race of his life tried to go with the Vana horse but his challenge fizzled out after the second last hurdle. Turning into the home straight for the final time (after this year all races at Pardubice would be run right handed to accomodate the newly built Town stand) VRONSKY held a clear lead and it looked like the favourite would win easily. MARKETPLACE and Pavel Slozil, though were finishing like a train from some way off the pace. VRONSKY still held a commanding lead at the last but MARKETPLACE was bearing down on him. The post came just in time as VRONSKY recorded the narrowest of victories by half a length. In all nine finished. For Vana it was a new record - five wins as a rider and his second as a trainer. Guy Lewis came in for much criticism from Vaclav Chalopupka and did not ride in the Velka again although he returns to Pardubice with Course and Distance Racing.
Also Ran : PERUAN - Vladimir Snitkovskij 9 (unseated rider 15th), VARADERO - Vlastimil Spalek 8 (hampered & unseated rider 15th), BADDELLIOS - Guy Lewis 6 (unseated rider 4th), URANIUM - Mr A.Bocquet 11 (unseated rider 4th), CEST - Frantisek Jasinsky 7 (fell 2nd)
Trainer : Josef Vana. Distances : 1/2-18-1 1/2-13-18-13-distance-12. Time : 10 minutes 34.3 seconds
11th October 1998
Two previous winners were in the field this year together with a bumper crop of English and Irish challengers. The 1996 winner CIPISEK returned having won his only start in 1997 before injury ruled him out of that years Velka. This year he had won a small race at Pardubice before finishing a close second to the useful grey CEST in the August qualifier. Trainer Josef Vana elected to ride him over the 1997 winner VRONSKY who had finished second in three starts including in the June qualifier. CIPISEK was the most fancied of the home team but it was an Irish runner RISK OF THUNDER who started favourite. A legend over the Banks course at Punchestown the Sean Connery owned gelding had won the last four La Touche Cups, Irelands premier cross country event. Second in the market was the Jenny Pitman trained SUPERIOR FINISH who had run well in the 1996 Grand National. The Russian trained GART, the first Russian challenger for five years was some way adrift when he made a splash at the first water as VRONSKY, MARKETPLACE and DAMION ridden by the only girl, Martina Ruzikova disputed the lead in the early stages. Both VRONSKY and MARKETPLACE were down on their noses at the Taxis but to the delight of the crowd only one horse, CEST came down when he got too close to LATERAN. RISK OF THUNDER and British champion Richard Dunwoody skimmed the Irish Bank in great style and found themselves in a clear lead on the run towards Popkovices Turn followed by SUPERIOR FINISH and DEBICZ. With so little grief in the early stages a classic Velka looked to be on the cards but no one could have envisaged the carnage that was to unfold. RISK OF THUNDER cleared Popkovices easily but in second place SUPERIOR FINISH spooked and swerved to his right colliding with DEBICZ. Both horses came down and immediately behind CELESTANO, clearly unsighted did not get high enough and fell in a heap colliding with VRONSKY, DAMION and CIPISEK. LATERAN was also on the floor and SUMAK was brought down. Oblivious to the chaos behind him Dunwoody and RISK OF THUNDER cleared the seventh fence which BARROW struggled to clear. Whilst used to banks and other cross country style fences there is nothing like the "In and Out" at Punchestown and RISK OF THUNDER put in a mighty leap at the first part only to come to a complete stop at the second pitching Dunwoody into the fence. Behind there was further chaos as BARROW came to a halt as did a few of the other survivors. MARKETPLACE and PERUAN cleared fence ten in the lead followed by only five other runners, DEVIL, FOKS, TRES BELLE. ZILCO and the Russian GART. This was all that was left in the contest. A classic Velka it was not and one can only be thankful for the fact that amazingly there were no more fallers. Jockey Matysik had to coax PERUAN over his bogey fence, the Drop with a smack to the backside and the pair had taken the lead by the second "In and Out". By the last fence PERUAN and DEVIL were disputing the lead and both Matysik and Roman Tuma were flat out on both horses as they battled up the straight. In the end it was success for PERUAN who ran on to win quite easily by seven lengths. The Pardubice executive were left frustrated - so much had been done to make the Velka safer and whilst the Taxis had been relatively trouble free one horse had caused chaos.
Also Ran : RISK OF THUNDER - Richard Dunwoody 9 (unseated rider 8th), BARROW - Vlastimil Spalek 8 (refused & unseated rider 8th), VARIANT - Pavel Prudek 8 (refused 8th), VESPAN - Jan Papousek 9 (refused 8th), IRISH STAMP - Paul Carberry 9 (fell 6th), SUPERIOR FINISH - Ruby Walsh 12 (refused & unseated rider 6th), CIPISEK - Josef Vana 10 (fell 6th), DAMION - Martina Ruzikova 7 (fell 6th), LATERAN - Jiri Kamenicek 7 (fell 6th), TATANKA YOTANKA - Ken Whelen 7 (brought down 6th), CELESTANO - Emil Siska 11 (fell 6th), SUMAK - Pavel Peprna 8 (broughth down 6th), VRONSKY - Pavel Kasny 10 (fell 6th), DEBICZ - Tomas Kocian 6 (hampered & unseated rider 6th), CEST - Frantisek Jasinsky 8 (unseated rider 4th)
Non Runners : Trainer : Lenka Horakova. Distances : 4-18-3 1/2-5-12-16. Time : 10 mins 10.01 secs
10th October 1999
RISK OF THUNDER was back in an attempt to make amends for his surprise early exit the year before. With more wins over the banks course at Punchestown he looked again to have a favourites chance. PERUAN was again the best of the home challenge having finished fourth in the May qualifier and then had won a small race at Pardubice in June. The qualifiers were of no use for those trying to pick out the Velka winner as only one winner, VRONSKY who had won the September qualifier was declared to run. Perhaps the main local danger to PERUAN, a horse trained by Radek Holcak called Kreator was missing which was a great shame as he had won both the June and August qualifiers very easily indeed. A second Irish challenger DENNISTOWNTHRILLER, a big Russian grey EPOLET and Monsieur Bocquet on AS DE L`ECHASSERIE for France gave the race extra international flavour although all would be outsiders. IRISH STAMP was also back this time ridden by Adrian Maguire. Ruby Walsh was due to partner RISK OF THUNDER but he suffered a freak accident on the flat in an earlier race where he had been forced onto the running rails and broke his leg. Ken Whelan who had been due to partner DENNISTOWNTHRILLER got the mount on the favourite. In miserable wet conditions BELOVODSK and LYRIK were the first to show whilst PERUAN settled himself in the rear. DEBICZ and RISK OF THUNDER were also prominent and for the second year running the Irish horse was first over the Taxis which he cleared magnificently. For the second year running only one came down at the Taxis, the outsider LIZINK but his fall interfered with the Russian EPOLET who was already finding the pace a little too much. RISK OF THUNDER and DENNISTOWNTHRILLER were clear at Popkoviskes turn where mercifully there was no repeat of the carnage of a year ago. Showing a little more caution RISK OF THUNDER cleared the "In and Out" although AS DE L`ECHASSERIE ploughed straight into the second part burying Monsieur Bocquet who at least had got considerably further than on his four previous rides in the race. Fence 10A, normally a fairly innocuous obstacle caused trouble this year when CELESTANO who had been with the chasing group fell awkwardly and DEBICZ was hampered and unseated his rider. Sadly what had looked like an innocuous fall was to prove fatal for poor CELESTANO who had broken a shoulder and the screens were quickly up around the stricken horse. The two Irish horses continued to lead with VRONSKY and LYRIK prominent as the race once again settled down over the middle part of the race. BELOVODSK made a mistake at Poplars rails but the fences and the big waters in particular caused the runners no further problems although EPOLET who had been struggling from the outset was some way behind the rest of the field. PERUAN who had once again been biding his time started to make his move by the second "In and Out" and he took the lead at the twenty third. RISK OF THUNDER was still going well and as the runners entered the final stages of the race it was clear that it was going to be between the local hero and the big Irish horse. At The Big English jump IRISH STAMP who had never really got into the race refused in the most spectacular fashion as he literally raced lengthways into the obstacle lodging Maguire in the fence. At Havels RISK OF THUNDER had regained the initiative with the two horses racing side by side. VRONSKY was staying on in fourth place just behind BELOVODSK but they were not making any ground on the leaders. RISK OF THUNDER held the advantage coming into the home straight yet PERUAN always seemed to be going the stronger and indeed it was Whelan who reached for his whip first. PERUAN jumped the last in front and eventually went on to gain his most comfortable victory in the race. RISK OF THUNDER losing nothing in defeat finished second ahead of BELOVODSK, BARROW and LYRIK. RISK OF THUNDER did not return to Pardubice but continued to dominate at Punchestown winning an incredible seven La Touche Cups the last being in 2002 after which he was retired. For PERUAN it was back to Pardubice to see if he could make it three in a row.