Theophilos holds off Hegnus in the 1st VP qualification race

The four qualification races over 5800 metres at Pardubice racecourse will, as usual, be the main preparatory races for Czech-trained and Slovak-trained contenders for the Velka Pardubicka, which will be run on Sunday, October 11th.  All horses can qualify for the big race by completing one of the four qualification races, or alternatively by completing one of the races in the Crystal Cup series of crosscountry chases, or by completing a steeplechase, a crosscountry steeplechase or a crosscountry race in France, Italy, the United Kingdom or Ireland, after October 15th, 2019. Theophilos, winner of the VP in 2019, qualifies automatically for the race.

Fourteen runners lined up for the first qualification race on Saturday, July 4th. After considerable rain in Pardubice in June, the course was in fine condition, the going was good (3.2), and it was a reasonably cool July afternoon.

The two horses trained by Josef Váňa senior, Mazhilis, ridden by Jan Kratochvíl, and Theophilos, ridden by Josef Bartoš, set the pace. Only one of the runners failed to get round. Lodgian Whistle unseated his rider, Jaroslav Myška, at the Irish Bank. The horse ran loose. A couple of minutes later, Lodgian Whistle suddenly ran straight across the whole field of runners, through a non-existent gap between the first and second horses. He miraculously missed all of them in a way that makes me wonder if it really happened.

Two fences from home, Theophilos went into the lead, and Mazhilis began to drop back. In the run in, Hegnus, ridden by Marek Stromský challenged Theophilos, but the 2019 VP winner and jockey fought back very hard indeed, and held on to win by a neck. Player, ridden by Marcel Novák finished three lengths behind in third place. Josef Bartoš had got a very similar remarkable battling finish out of Theophilos in last year’s Velka.

The next six to finish all turned in a reasonable performance: Dulcar de Sivola, Mahony, Casper, Mazhilis, Vandual and Bugsie Malone. The last four past the post trailed in well beaten: Direct Lagrange, Ribelino, Decorus and Marcus Aurelius.  

The remaining qualification races at Pardubice will be on Saturday, July 25th, Saturday, August 8th, and Saturday, August 29th.