October 2012 newsletter


The October newsletter appears in its new home, on the Dostihovy svet website [it had previously appeared on the defunct Paddock Revue website}. This is a homecoming in a way, as Dostihovy svet is edited by Petr Guth, who was the editor of the Paddock Revue website and also the Paddock Revue printed magazine.


Paddock Revue offered a problem-free site for the only frequently-updated English-language source of information on Czech racing for a number of years, so I had no reason to want Paddock Revue to close. When I clicked on Paddock Revue a few days ago and saw that it had all been deleted, I was a bit shocked (although I had been duly warned). I can only compare it with a Monday morning in about 1978 when I cycled to work as usual through a shanty town of mud huts in the northern suburbs of Lome, Togo, and realised that it had been demolished almost without trace during the weekend. The children that used to cry out, or run away, as the white man cycled past had been removed to an even bleaker place, 20 kilometres away, as I found out later. Similarly, the pages written on the website over the last several years have simply been deleted away, as far as I know, and have disappeared even more comprehensively than the residents of that shanty town. Having written all that, I am now informed that the Paddock Revue pages have reappeared:  http://www.paddock-revue.cz/en [they reappeared briefly and then vanished again]


The demise of Paddock Revue in the written form is sad, in the sense that Petr Guth and others worked on it with great devotion and resisted collapse for years. However, in my view a website is nowadays and in future in almost all ways superior to a printed magazine, and the Czech-language Dostihovy svet web site is a key resource for anyone interested in Czech racing. The English pages will continue as they were on the Paddock Revue site, with a monthly newsletter and with updated news items mainly based on stories in the Czech-language site.          


This year, the second weekend in October, the traditional date for the Velka Pardubicka, falls in the middle of the month, and the VP is on October 13th. Even though I have missed my normal deadline for this newsletter, and it is already October 4th, the runners and rides will not be known until tomorrow. This will provide the first clear indication of which foreign-trained horses will come over. If any!


This newsletter assumes that most readers are interested mainly in steeplechasing, but I will also report on the major events in our flat racing season. The main steeplechasing news in September was, firstly, that the final Velka Pardubicka qualification race, unlike the other three, was run in good conditions. Ronino won well. Valldemoso came second, yet another consistent performance. And, above all, Tiumen, winner of the VP in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and Josef Vana snr., had a good warm-up run, finishing 3rd. Vana had clearly recovered to a considerable extent from the broken thigh that he suffered at the end of April, and was already getting himself into condition for October 13th. Secondly, Czech-trained horses performed very well in the Gran Premio di Merano. 2010 winner Rigoureux won the race, but the next four home were all Czech-trained: Imprezer (Vana-Faltejsek) , Demon Magic (Olehla-Myska), Alpha Two (Vana-Bartos) and Budapest (Vana-Fuhrmann). Vana complained that Imprezer was subjected to some rough riding by the winning jockey; however, noone can remember Vana himself ever waving a rival past on the inside, and he will not give an inch on October 13th, either.    


I started writing this newsletter almost a week ago, on St Wenceslas’ day, September 28th. This is a national holiday in honour of the patron saint of the Czech Republic. A fair proportion of the Czechs that you know are called Vaclav (Wenceslas) and are celebrating their name day today. For quite a few years, Czech racing has celebrated the day with races organised at Tochovice, about 60 km south of Prague, by Vaclav Chaloupka, who rode 4 winners of the Velka in the 1970s, on Korok, three times, and on Vaclav. He also rode Essex in the Aintree Grand National. He has been a trainer for over thirty years, and has several other claims to fame. For example, he is a top ten-pin bowler, he still rides trotters, and last but not least his wife is a senior Jockey Club administrator based at Prague Velka Chuchle racecourse. This year, however, there is no meeting at Tochovice to celebrate St Wenceslas’ day. Vaclav Chaloupka is now approaching his 65th birthday and decided not to take on the big task of organising a day of racing this year. The racing day at Tochovice has always been an afternoon of low-class flat racing on a short track with very tight corners, often on a chilly late September afternoon, with limited shelter, but always with very gracious hosts. If Tochovice disappears from our racing calendar, we will remember it with considerable fondness and gratitude, not only for the late September meeting, but for the number of meetings that were held there in the autumn of 2002, when the floods in mid August wiped out racing at Prague Velka Chuchle for the rest of the season. We hope racing at Tochovice will be revived, perhaps by whoever in due course takes over the stables at Tochovice, and perhaps, if the link with the name Vaclav is lost, moved to a summer date.


Three of the 14 courses that have held meetings in recent years failed to hold a meeting in 2012. The two-day meeting at Mimon was cancelled because the grandstand was vandalized by scrap metal thieves, and the meeting at Svetla Hora because of a fire at the racecourse. The loss of four racing days that would have included just a single race of higher than Category III is not a disaster for the upper end of the ‘racing industry’, but it is a considerable sadness that the efforts of the organisers have come to nothing. We could manage quite well with just 11 courses, no doubt. Small courses come and go, and some of these courses could be back next year. However, it will not be quite the same: we need some gains elsewhere to make up for the losses, and we certainly need to recognise the efforts of the people who work hard to put on racing days at the small courses.


The only small racecourse that is positively thriving is at Lysa nad Labem, not far east of Prague. The new watering system has considerably improved the turf, the fences are the best and safest that we have, and the meeting on Saturday, October 6th, will be the sixth of the season. Lysa also nowadays produces an attractive, informative, full-colour programme.


With only 4 weekends to go, it seems likely that the jumps jockey’s championships will be decided on the final Saturday of the season, at Pardubice on October 27th, or even a day later at Velka Chuchle, where there will be a single hurdles race. Our top jumps jockeys devote a lot of time and attention to riding in Italy these days, rather than chasing one or two rides in Category IV races at mixed meetings out in the countryside. Marcel Novak (12 winners) and Marek Stromsky (11) do not head south much, and occupy 1st and 2nd position. Jaroslav Myska (11) is third, followed by Josef Vana, jnr (9), Dusan Andres (9) and Josef Bartos (8). The flat jockeys’ championship is also still open, with Jaromir Safar and Petr Foret on 28 winners, followed by Jan Raja on 25.


Welcome to the Dostihovy svet (Racing World) website, everybody.