Lowdown on the 2019 Velka Pardubicka
**The weather forecast in Pardubice for Velka Pardubicka weekend (October 12th/13th ) is warm and sunny, with daily maxima of about 22°C. Bear in mind, though that the nights and early mornings are likely to be chilly in mid-October.
**The racecourse is said to be in good condition. There has been a good amount of rain in the last couple of months. The grass is green, and the going surely will not be hard. The ploughed fields will not be dusty – but they could be muddy if there is some unexpected rain near to the time of the race.
**I have written repeatedly on this website denying that there was any long-term damage to the racecourse from the ice-skating rink that was put up on the finishing straight for three months during the winter. Basically, I am right, as usual. However, I am a fair man, and I have to admit that the grass where the rink was set up was still discoloured at the September meeting at Pardubice. In addition, when some horses ran over that part of the course they appeared to splash through some water. We never used to have a pool of water there, and the soil is presumably compacted. If a jockey, having safely negotiated the 31 obstacles and the muddy ploughed fields, not to mention 6900 metres, is worried that his horse might slip up on the flat, 100 metres from the line, he should take the inside line and avoid the location of that infamous skating rink.
**In the raceday programme, you will see that most of the jockeys have the prefix “ž.” written before their name. “ž.” stands for žokej, i.e. jockey. This title is given to a rider who has ridden 50 winners (over fences, or on the flat, separately). I hope the raceday programme has written a “ž.” before the name of Jan Odložil, who celebrated winning the title last weekend at Brno, where he rode the 49th and 50th wins of his career. The only current Czech or Slovak jockey to have won more than 50 races on the flat and more than 50 races over fences is Slovak jockey and jockey (ž. a ž.) Martin Cagáň, whose riding on the flat has for many years been only on horses set to carry an unusually high weight. Cagáň rides Slovak-trained Tiep de l’Est and Odložil rides Templář. Both of these are total outsiders, I‘m afraid to say.
**Two riders in the Velka do not have a “ž.” before their name. Lukáš Sloup is a veteran nowadays, and has ridden 21 winners in a career going back to 1995. He comes and goes, often spending periods in France as a work rider. However, he sometimes turns up and rides in unexpected places. In 2015, he won the Swedish Grand National on Ländler. A year later, he was at Pardubice when Barbora Málková, who was to have ridden Charme Look in the August VP qualification race (and in the Velka), was injured at the last moment. Lukáš jumped into the saddle and won the race. However, he did not get the ride in the Velka, where Charme Look was ridden to victory by Jan Faltejsek. Lukáš suffers from a reputation for being willing to accept rides that no one else is crazy enough to take. He rides Krocoleon in the Velka, probably one of the more reliable mounts that he has accepted in his career, but no more likely to win than the typical mount offered to Lukáš Sloup. Josef Borč has ridden 18 winners, 10 on the flat and 8 over fences, in the last 16 years. None of the winners has been in a major race. A ride on Dulcar de Sivola in the Velka is a big break for him. This young horse won a decent race in France two years ago, and his best runs here have been OK. With prizemoney down to 7th place in the Velka nowadays, Josef just might get on to the extended podium.
**But what about the main contenders, you may ask. Well, last year’s winner Tzigane du Berlais seems to face an easier task this year. It is a good policy to bet on the previous year’s winner in the Velka, and Tzigane is still only 8 years old. He will be ridden by Jan Faltejsek, who has already won the race five times (on Orphée des Blins, 3x, on Charme Look, and on Tzigane). The fly in the ointment with Tzigane du Berlais is that he suffered a colic attack after his recent race, as reported on this website. The other ‘logical’ horse to support is Talent. This 7-y-o has only run twice in the last two years, winning VP Qualification Races in May 2018 and in September 2019. His trainer, Hana Kabelková, announced earlier this year that he suffers from arthrosis and that his racing career was in doubt. Nevertheless, he came out and won the recent Qualification Race at Pardubice very well. Leighton Aspell rides Talent.
**What about the horses trained by Josef Váňa senior? Doesn’t he reckon to train the winner of this race? Well, his best prospect was No Time to Lose, a good winner of the VP in 2017. However, the horse had a setback and is a non-runner. He is expected to be back for next year. That leaves Váňa with four runners. Ange Guardian has won all of his three races this year, and he has won four VP qualification races in the last two seasons. Three years ago, he finished second behind Charme Look in the VP. The trouble with this horse is that he has shown rather clearly that the distance of the VP is too much for him. He will be ridden by veteran jockey Jiři Kousek, who has spent long periods riding mainly abroad. More recently, he trained here, but now he has gone back to full-time riding. He currently rides mainly in Italy, where Czech and Italian trainers trust him to ride their good horses. Váňa’s retained jockeys rejected the opportunity to ride Ange Guardian, and may come to regret it. Or maybe they will not regret it. Josef Bartoš, the most successful Czech jumps jockey of all time, nowadays rides mainly in Italy for Josef Váňa junior. Josef junior trains horses exclusively for Italian owner Scuderia Aichner. The horses are trained in the Czech Republic but race almost entirely in Italy. Josef junior, in his first year with a trainer’s licence, is almost sure to win this year’s Italian trainers’ championship, and Bartoš will almost certainly again win the Italian jockeys’ championship. A couple of weeks ago, they won the Gran Premio di Merano with L’Estran. Josef Bartoš will ride Theophilos in the Velka. This is a horse with a decent record, but there are major doubts about whether the distance is right for him. Or the course – he is thought to be one of those horses that does not like the smell of the course. The smell refers to the ploughed fields, normally, except in October, horribly dusty, and at times horribly muddy and maybe slippery. If I were a horse, I think Pardubice would not be the course for me.
**The other two Váňa-trained horses are both owned by KöiDent. KöiDent seems like a mysterious name for a racehorse owner. However, it refers to Köhler Ivo Dent(al Technicians) – Ivo Köhler’s daytime job is concerned with manufacturing dentures. He has been extremely lucky with the small number of jumpers that he has owned. In particular, Tiumen carried Josef Váňa to victory in the Velka Pardubicka in three successive years. Mazhilis won the Gran Premio di Merano for Ivo, Josef Váňa senior and jockey Jan Kratochvíl in 2016. Since then, the plan has been to win the Velka Pardubicka with this horse. He has run four times at Pardubice, finishing second on three occasions, and last time out he finished third in the September 2019 VP Qualification Race behind Talent and Theophilos. He has been improving, but a win in the Velka would require a further major advance. Jan Kratochvíl is commendably loyal to this horse, which carried him to a great win at Merano, but I am not sure that he has made the right choice this time. Zarif has spent the last six years preparing for the VP, finishing 6th in 2014, then 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 4th. Zarif is now 12 years old, and if he was going to win the VP he would probably have done so a few years ago. Nevertheless, he is a good ride for Thomas Boyer, a French jockey who has been based in the Czech Republic for several years.
**Stretton sprang a surprise when he finished third in VP 2018, and his performances this year suggest he has quite a good chance of getting into the prizemoney again. British jockey Thomas Garner rode him last year, and will be in the saddle again this time.
**Delight My Fire is the only mare in the race. In the more distant past she won the top races at Wroclaw, and she has also won three top races at Slušovice. Moving on to Pardubice, she won the Labe Stakes in 2016 and finished third in the Velka Pardubicka in 2017. In December 2016, she ran in the Glenfarclas crosscountry chase at Cheltenham, and appeared to be going well when she fell. She has also run in Fance and Italy. She finished second in the Crystal Cup series race at Wroclaw this year, but her performances have been inconsistent in the last couple of years. She is ridden in the VP by Sertash Ferhanov, a Bulgarian jockey who spent a few years here and last year won our jumps jockeys championship. He is a much respected jockey here, famous for clinging on when unseated long after a reasonable or a weaker jockey would have hit the ground.
**Sztorm is another horse that has made his name at Wroclaw, winning both of the main chases there in 2018. He did pretty well in the June Qualification Race at Pardubice this year, running Ange Guardian close. However, I think he does not really like the smell of Pardubice, and his record there has not been as good as at other courses. In the Wielka Wroclawska five weeks ago, he was pulled up near the end of the race when he appeared very well placed. Now, it seems, he is OK to run in the Velka. I have not heard any explanation of this sequence of events. Sztorm will be ridden by Marek Stromský, famous for being the unluckiest jockey in the history of the VP. The horse certainly has plenty of class, and if things turn out well for him, anything can happen.
**Two jockeys are riding under their partner’s orders. Štěpánka Myšková trains Bridgeur and Lenka Kvapilová trains Player. Both partners, Jaroslav Myška and Marcel Novák, could have had a choice of rides, as Myška has won our jumps jockeys’ championship several times, and Marcel Novák started winning the championship more recently, when he was already over the age of 40. Marcel is placed to win the championship again this year. His mount, Player, won a race on VP day in 2017, and put in a decent performance to win a race at Pardubice on September 9th. The horse is only 7 years old, and might be a good VP horse in future years, or even this year. Jaroslav Myška’s mount, Bridgeur, has become a well-known feature of our races in the last three seasons, dashing off into the lead in his green blinkers, and remaining there for quite a while before dropping back dramatically. His trainer and the horse's fan club will also be in green. Last time out, Myška was able to give the horse a breather, and he finished in a commendable third place behind Ange Guardian and No Time to Lose in the August Qualification race. After 27 runs, Bridgeur is still a maiden, so he shouldn’t win the Velka. However, he might maintain or even improve on his 7th place finish in the last two years.
**Mahony won the Labe Stakes on VP day 2018 as a 6-y-o, which marked him out as a potential future Velka winner. However, he has been quite well beaten in two Qualification Races this year. He will be ridden by Swedish veteran Niklas Lovén. The jockey is based in Sweden, a country where there has been very little jumps race since Täby racecourse was closed down a ouple of years ago, and the new Bro Park racecourse was built without a steeplechase course. It is hoped, at least by the Swedish steeplechasing fraternity, or should I say sorority, that Bro Park is going to put on some steeplechasing, maybe from 2020. Niklas Lovén is not waiting, and is not holding his breath. He flies and then drives to Wroclaw, to the Czech racecourses and to the Italian racecourses. If anyone deserves to be, and is, a special hero of the Dostihový svět English language pages, it is Niklas Lovén. It would be fine if he wins the Velka this year, but I am afraid Mahony’s time has not yet come.
**It is good to see a UK-trained challenger run in the Velka, after a break of about five years. Rathlin Rose has quite a good record, but he has no experience of running in crosscountry races. His jockey, James Best, rode in VP 2108 on Ribelino. It would have been better to have pulled the horse up, rather than trail in a distance behind the rest of the field. Ribelino, after all, recorded the fastest time in the history of the race when he won the VP in 2015, and it was sad to see him routed on that occasion.
**Slovak-trained Vandual’s best performance was in September 2011, when he won the Slovak St Leger at Bratislava. He has never been a top-class chaser, but he did quite well in the June Qualification Race, finishing third behind Ange Guardian and Sztorm and ahead of five of his rivals in the field for Velka 2019.
**And what of poor Ribelino? He has moved to trainer Luboš Urbánek, and has run in three of the VP qualification races. He has looked fairly OK this year, but it is most unlikely that he will turn back the clock, and this will presumably be his last race. Andrew Glassonbury has come over to ride the horse in all this races this year.
**That leaves us with two more French-bred horses that are both more or less unknown quantities. They may both be no good, but who knows, one of them may have adapted to the conditions in the Czech Republic and at Pardubice racecourse, or may do so in the future. Chicname de Cotte (Jordan Duchêne) arrived here earlier this year, having a decent record at Pau. He has not yet achieved much in two Qualification Races at Pardubice. Beau Rochelais (Alexandre Orain) arrived here very recently, and has not yet seen and smelled Pardubice. He comes from the same source as Orphée des Blins, but it did take the great Orphée two or three years to settle in. Neither of this duo is expected to do much on Sunday.
I don’t think I’ll have a bet on the race this year!
Photo of Robin, by Tassula. Almost all of the content on the Dostihový svět web pages is written or translated by Robin