January 2019 Newsletter

 The last two weeks of December were very quiet for me, as I was able to ‘finish with Christmas celebrations’ by about December 17th. I was then able to catch up with the latest news about Czech racing, and to spend Christmas day translating some items that I thought you might want to click on to.

If only I had posted this newsletter, as intended, a couple of days before the end of December, everything would have been more or less up to date. However, this morning I found a long and interesting interview by Miloslav Vlček with Martina Krejčí, general secretary of the Jockey Club of the Czech Republic, in the Fitmin/Turf web pages. I have decided to consider that interview to belong to January 2019, for my purposes, because a) the interview is long and deserves a lot of attention, b) I have plenty of other things to tell you about right now, and anticipate that there will be a shortage of interesting new stuff in the next month or two, c) I do not think the interview contains anything that you need to know about without delay, and d) I intend to translate the interview for you, in full or perhaps in an edited version, and post it on this website.  

Let me point out some items that I managed to translate or summarize for you in the second half of December. Firstly, the Czech horseracing gala evening will be held in a very fine location in the centre of Prague on Saturday, February 23rd. I will be there! http://www.dostihovy-svet.cz/en/node/8334

Then I translated/summarized two articles about Josef Bartoš, our leading jumps jockey, and Josef Váňa junior, four times winner of our jumps jockeys’ championship, and winner of the Italian jumps jockeys’ championship in 2017. These two top Czech jockeys fought out the Italian jumps jockeys’ championship in 2018, with Josef Bartoš winning two races on the final afternoon of the year at Pisa and stealing the championship with the kind of strong finish that any jockey would be proud of.


This was followed immediately by the announcement that Josef Váňa junior has obtained a trainer’s licence, is giving up race riding, and has now already started training 37 horses in the Czech Republic for top Italian owner Scuderia Aichner. These horses were previously trained by his father. In addition, Josef Bartoš will be riding for Josef Váňa junior and for his father in 2019, mainly in Italy and probably also to an increasing extent in France.


Young Josef Váňa rode only a handful of races in the Czech Republic in 2018, and devoted his attention to retaining his Italian jumps jockeys’ championship. Young Josef is retiring from race riding at the age of 28. He has had to half starve himself for years to ride at 66 or 67 kg. Anything more than that would a problematic weight for a Central European jumps rider, as we consider 70 kg, equivalent to 11 stone, to be a pretty big weight for a chaser to be asked to carry. The weight carried by horses in the Velka Pardubicka is now 70 kg, but until a couple of years ago it was 68 kg. In the Gran Premio Merano Alto Adige this year, the horses carried 67.5 kg.  

Young Josef says that he wants to dedicate himself to training, and not to have the distraction of fighting to keep his weight down and dealing with injuries. He also says that his father, he and Mr Aichner, all agreed amicably with the new arrangements. I think that what young Josef states makes a lot of sense, and is probably completely true and sincere.

A highly significant part of the announcements is that Josef Bartoš will return to riding for the Váňas in 2019. Josef Bartoš is the most successful Czech jumps jockey of all time. Until the end of the 2004 season, he rode mainly on the flat, but keeping his weight down was an ever-increasing problem. In November 2004, Josef Váňa senior made him an unexpected offer that he could not refuse – to become his no.1 jumps jockey. He spent a decade riding as stable jockey for Josef Váňa senior. Throughout his time with Josef senior, he was a mentor for Josef junior, who was a boy when he first began riding in races, which was about when Bartos started riding as first jockey for Josef Váňa senior.

Josef Bartoš grew up with horses. His father, Josef Bartoš senior, is now one of our senior trainers. Josef Bartoš junior is 37 years old, and he too will be asking himself the question What next? I suppose most of us ask ourselves this question at the beginning of a new year. Josef Bartoš spent a long time, worked very hard, and took a lot of knocks, to get to where he is now. He is a top man, as a jockey and as whatever he decides to turn to when he has had enough of being unseated from rapidly moving horses.

You may be asking yourself about Czech fathers and sons having the same first name. Our top flat trainer, Václav Luka is also the son of Václav Luka, who was for 17 years president of the Jockey Club of the Czech Republic. Every Czech name has a set of diminutives connected to it. Josefs are known to family and friends as Pepa, Pepík, Pepíček, Jožka, Joža, Jožánek or Joska.  Pepa is the father of Pepík, who is the father of Pepíček. Several generations can be accommodated quite easily, and it is clear who is being referred to. Little Pepíček will, of course, grow into Pepík, or perhaps into Jožka, or he will acquire a nickname, instead of or alongside his diminutive.   

Another major story that I translated on Christmas day was that Dalibor Török has left his job as trainer for Pegas, just about the top job for a private trainer in the Czech Republic, and has been replaced by Čestmír Olehla. This is still an unexpected and unexplained event for me. Everything that I know about this move is contained in http://www.dostihovy-svet.cz/en/node/8338.

I made time to translate an article about our new champion jumps jockey, Sertash Ferhanov, which was written for the Fitmin/Turf web pages by Michaela Zemanová. Congratulations again to Sertash. http://www.dostihovy-svet.cz/en/node/8339

I still have in mind that there is an interview with Prague Velká Chuchle racecourse manager Martin Pecka that I kind of promised to translate at the end of the November newsletter. That can continue to wait, and has probably lower priority than the interview with Martina Krejčí, mentioned near the beginning of this newsletter.


Wishing everyone interested in Czech racing good health and good luck in 2019.