An interview with Jan Faltejsek, six times winning jockey in the Velka Pardubicka

This interview with Jan Faltejsek was taken soon after the Velka Pardubicka in October 2023 by Dostihový svět editor Petr Guth. I intended to translate it and post it at that time. Now I have found a) that I did not translate it, and b) that the beginning of our 2024 racing season would be a good time to recall Jan’s sixth winning ride in the Velka, on Sacamiro.   

Jan Faltejsek has won his sixth Velka Pardubicka on Sacamiro.  However, his return to the saddle after two unpleasant falls at Merano was like something from a storybook, and he admits he had not been sure that he would be fit to ride Sacamiro in the race. If he had had to give up the ride, Faltejsek would have been a contender for the title of unluckiest rider of the year. Two weeks before the Velka, he had missed the winning ride on First of All in the Gran Premio di Merano!

Faltejsek did not finally inform the owner that he could not ride First of All until just a few hours before the race. However, the situations that he found himself in before these two races were not identical. “Before the Gran Premio it was a fresh fall. I gave it a try, but it really wasn’t possible, he explains, saying that he would not have been able to give everything that was needed for the race in Italy. “There are moments in life when you have to be rational, and that was one of them.”

First of All managed to win at Merano, even without Faltejsek. However, the jockey did not miss out on the Velka Pardubicka. “This time, I had a week to work on it. The truth is that I had another fall onto my painful side at Merano a week before the race,” Faltejsek says. All week before the Velka there was speculation about whether he would be able to ride, and he himself did not know how it would turn out at the weekend.

“In the end, I was able to ride on the Sunday, and in the course of the afternoon I felt better and better. I did make some mistakes earlier in the afternoon, and I had a fall in the Labe Stakes – but fortunately not onto my back, and I was able to carry on without any problems,” he said, describing the hours and minutes before he got into the saddle of the favourite for the Velka Pardubicka. Horse and rider confirmed that the bookmakers knew what they were doing when they made this pair the favourites for the 2023 Velka Pardubicka with Slavia Insurance long before the race was run. In the Velka, Jan Faltejsek made up for what he had missed in Italy! 

The subsequent winning jockey had only a fairly distant view of the drama at the Taxis, which provoked a negative reaction on many sides thanks to the headlines in the popular press. [An inexperienced horse and rider led the field into the Taxis, but the horse spooked and brought down a series of horses on the left side of the fence. Sacamiro was on the right, but he too was affected by the uncertainty outside him]. “Before the Taxis, I always shut myself into a tunnel. I concentrate on us doing what we need to. But when we tried to do it, it wasn’t straightforward. Before the jump we lost the rhythm, and the impact on us was quite dramatic. But Sacamiro came through, and he came through the whole race.”

 Faltejsek did not want to speculate on why Benoit Claudic led the horses into the Taxis, but he fulfilled his own role at the fence and throughout the race perfectly. If he and his horse maintain their form, it is even possible that in 2025 he will be knocking on the door and attempting to draw level with Josef Váňa's remarkable record of eight wins as a jockey in the Velka. “That’s an awfully long way away, and all kinds of things can happen,” Faltejsek warns. “Sacamiro’s very good today, but it’s a question whether he’ll maintain his level of performance and will be equally outstanding next year. Look back into the past. I won the Velka on Charme Look and on Tzigane du Berlais, but they couldn’t build on their performances. Not just in the Velka, but even in the qualification races they weren’t quite up to it again.” Sacamiro is the ideal age, and it does not seem that his career is on the way down. But we will have to wait and see how he returns for the 2024 season.

Faltejsek leads the Czech jumps jockeys’ championship as the 2023 season draws to an end, and is second, two wins behind the leader, Josef Bartoš, in the Italian championship.