August 2018 newsletter

In preparation for writing the August 2018 newsletter, I jotted down a few ideas on what I might write about. Then, I decided to reread my August newsletters for 2015 to 2017. I was quite disappointed to see that most of my ‘ideas’ mentioned in the first sentence here had, in fact, been discussed in some detail in the August newsletters in each of the last three years! That either indicates that I repeat myself a lot, or, possibly, that things not have changed too disastrously in recent years, either in Czech racing or in my own life – which are the main topics of the newsletters. 

We have been enjoying delicious Czech-grown fruit in July 2018, especially cherries. I remembered that we had had excellent cherries just a few years ago, and now I find that that they were mentioned in the August 2015 newsletter. In 2015, as in 2018, there was no late frost to damage the cherries, and very hot, dry weather in June and July made them wonderfully sweet.

That is enough of introductory comments. What about Czech horseracing in the past month?

Putting together the Czech racing calendar in recent years has been difficult, as it has been a bone of contention in the battle between the racecourses and the Czech Jockey Club. It is hard enough to put a racing calendar together when all parties are cooperating, and we really cannot afford the inefficiencies that conflict produces. This year, a lack of coordination has shown up from time to time. We had racedays on July 6th, 7th and 8th, and then only three more racedays before August 3rd. These included a midday meeting on a Thursday at Most, in cooperation with PMU, and a Sunday meeting at Slušovice with the first race at 10 a.m. Of course,  trainers, owners and racegoers in distant Moravia think nothing of getting themselves and their horses to Prague Velká Chuchle on Sunday after Sunday, and arriving home quite late in the evening. We residents of Prague expect to have one or even two race meetings not far from home most weekends from April until October. Perhaps the lack of racing on our doorstep in July 2018 will bring home to us how lucky we have been 

The biggest racing event in the Czech racing calendar in July 2018 was Slovak Derby day, in Bratislava on July 15th. Soon after the Velvet Divorce, which took place on January 1st, 1993, a separate Slovak Jockey Club was set up. However, there has never been any problem about our horses competing in Slovakia or about their horses competing in Czech races. For a considerable number of bigger and smaller trainers in Moravia, the eastern half of the Czech Republic, Bratislava is the nearest major racecourse. I think it is true to say that relations between Slovak and Czech racing are cordial, and that, in general, there is little friction nowadays between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Since 2004, the two countries have been fellow members of the European Union, though only the Slovaks have adopted the euro currency. For one page of notes on the velvet divorce, written in 2004, click on to Autonomous fellow-membership of the EU has generally helped the Czechs and Slovaks to continue to cooperate amicably with each other. As far as horseracing is concerned, we are happy to have good neighbours in Slovakia, especially on a Sunday in July when we have an empty weekend here in the Czech Republic.  

The other major event in Czech racing in July was Oaks day at Karlovy Vary. The main race was won by Dylanka, by Dylan Thomas, out of a mare by Saddler’s Wells. Dylanka is owned by Hana Horčičková, and was ridden by Czech-based Bulgarian rider Beysim Ferhanov. For the owner and the rider, this was a first classic win. However, it was a fourth classic winner for trainer Helena Vocásková, who is further building on her sensational achievement in being our champion trainer on the flat in 2016 and over jumps in 2017. Currently she is a long way clear in this year’s Czech flat trainers’ championship, and just one win behind Josef Váňa in the jumps jockeys’ championship.

There have also been large numbers of Czech-trained horses running abroad, participating in 42 different race days, mainly in France, but also in Italy, Germany, Slovakia and Poland. 

In the June 2018 newsletter, I wrote that “promising apprentice David Liška rode 8 winners on the flat in May, and he seems unlikely to be seriously challenged for our flat jockeyschampionship.”  However, Liška has only ridden two further winners in the last two months, while Beysim Ferhanov has ridden a total of 19 winners in the past three months, every one of them for trainer Helena Vocásková. As we enter August, Liška has a lead of just one in the championship. Ferhanov, however, has picked up two separate suspensions for a week for overuse of the whip, beginning now. The Karlovy Vary stewards’ decision to punish Ferhanov for hitting Dylanka hard and often on her way to winning the Oaks must have been easy to reach . 

In the recent meeting at Slušovice, one of the races celebrated the 60th birthday of Václav Luka, senior, which as it happens was on Friday, July 13th. Václav Luka was president of the Czech Jockey Club for 17 years, before Jiří Charvát took over. Seventeen years is a long period to carry out plenty of rather thankless tasks, and I hope Czech racing can now decide to start respecting Václav Luka as a senior citizen in our sport. Václav Luka senior is the father of our top trainer on the flat, Václav Luka junior. 

Another race at Slušovice commemorated Vladislav (Voloďa) Snitkovskij, who died in 2015 at the age of just 45. This Russian jockey twice won the Velka Pardubicka, on Erudit in 1994 and on Cipísek in 1996. He spent several years in the 1990s based at or near Slušovice. 

Another notable birthday in July was Václav Chaloupka’s 70th. He rode four winners of the Velka Pardubicka (Korok 3 times, and Václav). In 1986, he was the first Czech jockey for 50 years to ride in the Aintree Grand National, on Essex. When they were both young men, he was much more famous than Josef Váňa, and he held the record for biggest number of winning rides in the Velka Pardubicka, until Váňa’s fifth win, which was on Vronsky, in 1997. Václav Chaloupka has held numerous positions in racing, and has been a trainer for much longer than our online records go back. He is still an active trainer. I am not sure whether he still rides trotters and plays for one of the leading Czech 10-pin bowling teams. 

Last but not least, I should record that Martina Havelková has now become the most successful female jockey of all time in Czech racing. The statistics are a bit complicated, as we are not sure whether we are justified in including Martinas three wins in Poland, while excluding Eliška Kubinová and Hana Mouchová, who have ridden far more winners than Martina, but in the USA and in Germany, respectively. Be that as it may, Martina has overtaken Miloslava Hermansdorferová, whose record of being the first woman to ride the winner of the Czech Derby, on Crapom, in 1972, can never be taken away. Miloslava Hermansdorferová also rode over 40 winners over fences. 

Martina also has to look over her shoulder, as Vendula Korečková is only 6 wins behind her. Martina Havelková is now doubling up as a trainer, and she took particular pleasure in the fact that her 149th winner was on Herbebois, which she now trains and which she has ridden in each of his last 29 runs. Herbebois was her first winner as a trainer, and her third winner of the day at Karlovy Vary. Well done, Martina Havelková!

I have translated a series of interviews from the Fitmin-Turf website recently, and I must make time soon to translate another one, under the title, I take my hat off to Mrs Hermansdorferová, says Martina Havelková. It is good to note that our best female riders get plenty of rides – Martina and Vendula have both had more rides here this year than any of the male riders – but I am not sure that they consistently get rides of the highest quality.  Martina, in particular, can ride at 49 kg, and plenty of her rides are on low-weight outsiders in handicaps. I do not think I have written anything considerable about Martina Havelková on theis website until now. That is a gap that I intend to fill in the coming days.