Reflections on the Velka Pardubicka
** In spite of a dire weather forecast, the 122nd Velka Pardubicka was held on a lovely sunny mid-October afternoon. Those in the north-facing grandstands may have considered it a cool afternoon, but those of us out in the open air enjoyed plenty of warm sunshine. Quite a lot of rain had been forecast for the week before the race, but none materialized until a considerable period of steady rain on the evening before the race. By this time, the course had been watered using the newly-installed irrigation system. On the day, the going was on the soft side, but quite deep in some of the ploughed sections. The ground staff, under the directon of Jiri Janda, had clearly been working long and hard on the course, and had it in pretty good condition. The problematic ploughed sections could have been worse - at least there were no major puddles.
** After the inspection of the course on Saturday morning, the decision was taken to rebuild the Popler Fence, no 14, which is a rather innocuous looking rail. It would have been dangerous for the horses to have come across the plough to this fence, which is placed on a small oasis of turf before and after the fence. Instead, it was rebuilt on the plough. If you watch the video of the race, widely available on Youtube, you will see that the reconstructed fence did not stand up to the passage of the leading horses.
** Orphee des Blins began at 55:1, with not many takers. Neither trainer Greg Wroblewski nor jockey Jan Faltejsek had any expectations, and both took the view that they had nothing to lose. Both assumed that she would run out of steam sooner or later. The horse was left to run her own race, and she never put a foot wrong.
** Greg Wroblewski had had some difficulty finding a jockey for Orphee des Blins. Stable jockey Dusan Andres has partnered Valldemoso in most of his more recent races, and he was so keen to ride Valldemoso again that he left the Pegas stable in order to avoid being required to ride the stable's horse - Orphee des Blins. Thomas Boyer, who has been working at the Pegas stable for the last 10 weeks, had ridden Karlsbad to victory in the June qualification race, and it was understood that he would ride him again in the Velka. Jan Faltejsek would normally have ridden for the BORS Breclav stable, but BORS had no runner in this year's VP.
** The monopoly bookmaker BETINO had a very good day, as it had taken a lot of bets on Tiumen, Trezor and Sixteen. There were not many takers for Orphee des Blins, at 55:1.
** There was no winner of the tricast for the Velka Pardubicka, and a record jackpot of over CzK 95 000 was accumulated and carried over to the first race at Slusovice on Sunday. The first race was a minor steeplechase with just six runners, so a bet covering all possible combinations would have cost just CzK 1200. A value bet like that is a big rarity in Czech racing. I don't know how much the tricast paid out, but I hope it was shared among a number of deserving Moravian racegoers.
**Josef Vana was disappointed to finish 'only' 3rd on even-money favourite Tiumen, but very soon perked up and congratulated the connections of Orphee des Blins.
**The biggest disappointment was Trezor, winner of two qualification races and a hotly-backed second favourite. Trainer Hana Kabelkova was bitterly disappointed, and criticized jockey Liam Treadwell for not following orders to settle the horse in mid-field. Treadwell explained that the horse did not want to settle, and he did not want to fight with him. Their successes in the qualification races had been based on Treadwell trusting the horse and letting him run his own race. In retrospect, it is clear that Trezor might have done better if he had not tried so hard to go with Orphee des Blins, but we will never know whether he dropped back because he had run too freely, because he did not like the soft ground, or because the distance was too much for him. Probably some combination of all three.
** The Velka is the last of 8 races, and, as usual, a couple of jockeys were injured earlier in the afternoon and had to be replaced at the last moment. Marcel Novak had to miss the ride on Imbir, and was replaced by Swedish jockey Niklas Loven. Josef Sovka had to miss the ride on Bremen Plan, and was replaced by Jan Korpas. Both of the replacement jockeys were unseated in the course of the race. Marcel Novak was in the saddle again at Slusovice on the following day. He is narrowly leading the jumps jockey's championship, on the basis of having won more second places, from Jaroslav Myska. Both won a race at Slusovice, Novak clearly riding in some pain. Marcel Novak has never before been in contention to win the jockeys' championship.
** The good performance of the Irish and English horses was well received. Maljimar finished 4th, Uncle Junior 6th and Doctor Bob 7th. None of them was ever in contention. All emerged from the rear of the field and picked off the non-stayers in the last mile of the race. We are pleased that the big prizemoney stayed with Czech-based owners, trainers and jockeys, but that the guests added a lot to the spectacle and did not go home empty-handed.
** Diane Hill resumed doing Best Turned Out on Velka Pardubicka day, after a year with no competition. She and her team picked Orphee des Blins as best turned out, but unfortunately did not put a bet on her. Diane has been Jan Faltejsek's English mummy over the last six years that he has spent at the George Charlton stable in Northumberland, and was as thrilled as Jan himself by his great success.
** It was good to see old friends from the UK and Ireland, and to meet new first-time visitors. Do read and bookmark Dostihovy svet. Do come again to Pardubice, and do speak to your friends about it.