Bartoš wins the Velka for the third time: A Sparta fan accepts the cup from Slavia

On October 13th, Josef Bartoš won the Velka Pardubicka for the third time. He had to work hard for his win on Theophilos, but he managed to complete the best fortnight in his career as a jockey. This interview, taken on the day after the Velka by Petr Guth, editor of Dostihový svět, with the recent winner of the Velka and the Gran Premio di Merano, and also the reigning Italian jumps jockeys’ champion, includes a discussion about how Josef Bartoš, aa a Sparta fan, feels about receiving an award from Slavia (in this case, from the Slavia Insurance company), and about attempting to be the first-ever Czech jumps jockey to ride 1 000 winners. (Sparta and Slavia are the two big Prague-based multi-sport clubs that are locked in endless rivalry. Sparta are currently leading the Czech ice-hockey league; Slavia are leading the Czech football league.)


Within a period of two weeks you’ve won the Gran Premio at Merano and the Velka Pardubicka. Realistically speaking, what more is there for you to achieve in the saddle?

It’s as good as it gets in the area that I’ve been moving in. I’ve managed to win the biggest races here and in Italy, and there’s nothing greater that can be achieved over jumps around here. But in racing, there are always more races and you have to keep retaining your position!

But, with all respect, Italy and the Czech Republic are not the pinnacle of horse racing!

You’re right, of course. However, I don’t think I’m going to get to England. I don’t think there’s an English owner who’s going to give me a call to ride a horse just because I won the Velka Pardubicka. There’s a more real prospect of breaking through in France. It’s been shown that we have some horses in our yard that could win a decent race over there, but to win a group race at Auteuil, it’s a matter of having a very high-quality horse. Who can tell, our Italian owner Mr. Josef Aichner has had a very good season, and we won the Gran Premio. Perhaps he’ll want to move on in the future and go for some wins in France. That would probably mean buying a ready horse with enough class to win a group race in France. If that happens, well, yes, I might be able to think about it!

Isn’t the Velka Pardubicka a big attraction for Mr. Aichner?

Why not? He certainly likes the race. In the past, he had a runner in the race, Fatal Mac. Raffaele Romano rode him, but they didn’t get round. After our success this year, he may get interested in the Velka again. If that’s what he wants, I assume he would want to get a ready horse that could run straightaway and would have a chance of winning. He normally wants the best he can get, and he can pay for it. Who knows, he might make the Váňas an offer for Theophilos.

Theophilos was your third winner in the Velka Pardubicka. Was it the most difficult?

Definitely. This year the horses were running on empty at the end of the race, and the run-in seemed terribly long. The going was officially good, but in the course of the afternoon the track cut up, and the surface under the horses’ feet in conjunction with the hot afternoon and drew the strength out of the horses. In the finishing straight, there was no point taking the horse to the outside. There was no advantage to be gained, so I just avoided the inside line, so that we wouldn’t lose our balance, and I just hoped Theophilos would make it.

He did make it, and your fan club was able to celebrate a little. What were the first celebrations like?

Nothing rowdy. After a drink with the sponsor, we went to the Potrefená husa in Pardubice for a meal. We drank some wine, but we were home by midnight.  On Wednesday we’ll be celebrating at the Váňas’ place. Apart from that, we’ll be getting back to work. I had the day off today, but from tomorrow we’ll be training again, and next Saturday there are some races in Italy.

While we are talking about future races, right after the Velka you mentioned your plan to ride a thousand winners. Have you worked out how long it will take you to do that?

 I’ve won almost seven hundred over fences, and I’ve also had 92 winners on the flat (Bartoš was a top jockey on the flat before weight problems, and a good offer from Josef Váňa senior, made him decide to ride over fences). In recent years I’ve been winning about fifty races a year, if it’s a good year and if I can avoid problems and injuries. To be realistic, I think I should be able to do it before I’m forty-five years old.

You won the Velka in the first year that the Slavia Insurance company has sponsored the race, and the racecourse was decked out in the red-and-white colours of Slavia. The insurance company shares these colours, as well as the name, with the football club. How did it feel for you, as a Sparta fan, to win in a red-and-white Slavia environment?

 It’s true that I’m a Sparta supporter, but it didn’t occur to me to think about it at the racecourse. As participants in the Velka we are all of course glad that a partner like Slavia Insurance has been found for the race. I don’t know what sponsorship plan there is between the insurance company and Dostihový spolek (organizers of events at Pardubice racecourse), and whether their partnership with the Velka is going to continue, but I’d be very happy to win the race again next year in a red-and-white environment.


Photo by Petr Guth. Translation by Robin.