Sottovento wins the fourth VP qualification race
There was some good rain in Pardubice on the day before the last of the four qualification races for VP2020. The race was run on a cool day, and the going was 3.2 (good to firm). In this exceptional year, all four qualification races were run in July and August. There were hot, dry spells in these months in Pardubice, as usual. However, good luck, heavy rains at the right times, and hard work by the ground staff, ensured that each of the qualification races was run in acceptable conditions.
Both of Josef Váňa senior’s usual jockeys, Josef Bartoš and Jan Kratochvíl, were not available to ride, and veteran Jiří Kousek had the opportunity to ride a series of well-fancied Váňa-trained horses. However, he took a heavy-looking fall on No Time To Lose in his first ride of the afternoon, and only one of his four rides got round the course, through no fault of the jockey.
Eleven runners lined up for the qualification race. Chicname de Cotte, which had finished a close third in VP 2019, was a non-runner. He is not qualified, and therefore presumably will not run in the Velka. This meant that Tzigane du Berlais was the only runner that was worthy of a place in the field for the VP but that had not yet fulfilled the qualification conditions.
Bridgeur normally makes the pace in his races, but this time jockey Jaroslav Myška tried new tactics and held him back. Unfortunately, the new tactics did not work, and Bridgeur simply did not show. Jiří Kousek let Ange Guardian hang about at the back of the field, as usual. Vandual, trained in Slovakia by Marián Štangel and ridden by Sertash Ferhanov, made the running, with Moula in second place. The pace was only moderate. Talent, Ribelino and Sottovento were in midfield. Jan Faltejsek kept Tzigane du Berlais at the back of the field, out of trouble. Nothing much happened until they came from behind the copse with 7 fences to go. By this time, Ange Guardian was moving comfortably towards the head of the field, and Sottovento moved into second place behind Vandual. When they went on to the grass track, with 600 metres and 3 plain fences to go, Vandual was still in front, Sottovento looked likely to finish second, and Ange Guardian, in third place looked a probable easy winner. However, as he approached the third from last, Ange Guardian seemed to make a false step, and he was promptly pulled up. Sottovento took the lead, but Vandual did not give up. Sottovento’s winning margin was a fairly comfortable four and a half lengths, but these two pulled 16 lengths away from Talent. Catch Life and Ribelino. It was a further 8 lengths back to Tzigane du Berlais, in 6th place. Decorus, Bridgeur, Moula and All Scater trailed in very well beaten.
Sadly, 12-y-o Ange Guardian had to be put down, and Czech racing and the Velka Pardubicka have lost a steeplechaser that had a long and distinguished career. He won his first ever race as a 2-y-o in 2010, and he shares with Trezor the record of winning five VP qualification races.
8-y-o Sottovento, trained by Josef Váňa senior and ridden by Jan Odložil, confirmed that his close second place not far behind Ange Guardian in the second qualification race was no a freak result. 12-y-o Vandual finished in 8th place in VP 2018 and again in VP 2019, and might improve on that this year. Talent is known to be a good chaser, and this well-beaten third place was a minor disappointment. However, his main target is the big race on October 11th. 12-y-o Catch Life is not entered for the Velka, but he has now performed pretty well in two qualification races, and his owner may decide to supplement him. Ribelino was awarded first place in the VP in 2015 after the disqualification of Nikas, and he is still the course record holder for the Velka Pardubicka. However, he has not finished in higher than 4th place in any of his 16 races since that day. 9-y-o Tzigane du Berlais was having his first race since VP 2019, when he was brought down at the Taxis. He qualified for the big race, which was his main target, but he was truly unimpressive. Tzigane du Berlais won the VP in 2018, and no doubt he needed the race. Six weeks from now he will be a different proposition.
Decorus, Bridgeur, Moula and All Scater are not serious contenders for the VP.
The fourth qualification race seems not to have provided much hard evidence for those trying to predict the winner of VP 2020, which is again sponsored by Slavia Insurance. Before the qualification race, Sottovento’s trainer appeared to consider that he had four better horses in the big race: Theophilos, No Time To Lose, Ange Guardian and Mazhilis, not necessarily in that order. Josef Váňa senior certainly holds a strong hand, as he nearly always does.
Supplementary entries can be made until midday on September 24th, and 10 a.m. on September 30th is the deadline for declarations to run.