Opasan wins the 100th Czech Derby

The 100th Czech Derby was run at Prague Velká Chuchle racecourse on September 7th. It was of course a pity to celebrate such a notable anniversary in front of a crowed limited to 1 000 because of the covid situation. Nevertheless, it was a fine effort by the racecourse and by the racing authorities to find prizemoney of CZK 2 000 000 and to put on a show that included a fashion show of clothes for 1921, the year in which the first Czech Derby was run at Velká Chuchle and three vintage aircraft landing at the racecourse. The aircraft commemorated the historic landing on May 13, 1911, by Jan Kaspar, who landed his airplane Blériot XI on the racetrack. This was the first ever long-haul flight in the Czech lands, between Pardubice and Prague, and was an event that helped put the racetrack on the map.

As usual for the Czech Derby, all 16 starting gates were filled. Vivienne Wells, trained in Germany by Czech-born Bohumil Nedorostek and ridden by leading German jockey Alexander Pietsch was sent into the lead. She remained in the lead until the Slovak-trained favourite, Opasan, the only other foreign-trained horse in the race, came past her late on and won by half a length. Francimore and Troop Commander dead-heated for third place, four lengths behind.

Opasan is trained by Jozef Chodúr and is owned by Bormann (SVK). The horse is Irish-bred, by French Navy out of Ouija’s Sister. His Czech jockey, Radek Koplík, tucked Opasan right at the back of the field at the first bend, and kept him out of trouble at that point and also as they made their way gradually through the field and into a position to challenge in the finishing straight. On July 18th, Opasan had won the Dr Otakar Frankenberger Memorial Stakes, a top Derby trial, very impressively at Prague Velká Chuchle. His trainer suggested that Opasan’s next race will be the Czech St Leger, at the end of October. The Slovak Derby at Bratislava is on October 3rd, and is presumably also an option.

Václav Luka junior trained three winners on Derby Day, including Ignacius Reilly in the Tattersall’s Mile and Ramssio in the Gold Cup. Ignacius Reilly won last year’s Czech Two Thousand Guineas, and is owned by Syndikát V3J. One of the three Vs in this syndicate of four owners is the trainer’s father, Václav Luka senior, who was president of the Czech Jockey Club for 17 years. Congratulations to this small syndicate, which also owns Nagano Gold, our highest rated horse.

Ignacius Reilly was ridden to victory by Jan Rája, who had announced that this would be his last raceday before retiring as a jockey. He is one of a small number of Czech jockeys to have ridden a total of over 500 winners. Over a period of many years, this good jockey and popular personality has struggled with his weight, has had several injuries and has had health problems. He has been closely linked with the rise of Miroslav Nieslanik as a leading trainer here, and it is surely a good idea for him to eat properly and take liquids properly and concentrate on training rather than riding in races from now on.