Czech Derby day and the second VP qualification race this weekend

The upcoming weekend offers a good range of horseracing in the Czech Republic. We begin on Friday evening, when there will be three races on the flat followed by three races over hurdles. A few years ago, we experimented with ‘bumpers’ at Pardubice, but they did not attract a lot of interest. The flat races at Pardubice on Friday are not called bumpers this time, but they are all low-category races over long distances between 2 800 metres and 3 200 metres. The first race is at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, June 26th, first race at midday, there will be 8 races over fences. The feature races are the second qualification race for the 131st running of the Velka Pardubicka, over 5 800 metres, crosscountry, and the Gold Cup, over 4 400 metres on the classical steeplechase course. There are only 5 declared runners for the Gold Cup, including First of All and Aztek, both owned by Jiří Charvát. Their main challenge may come from Dusigrosz.

All 14 runners in the first VP qualification race got round successfully and qualified for the big race, which will be run at Pardubice racecourse on Sunday, October 11th. This time, there are only 9 declared runners for the qualification race. They include 2020 VP winner Hegnus, which qualifies automatically. Hegnus is now 13 years old. 11-year-old Stretton finished 3rd  in VP 2018 and 2nd in VP 2019, but was well beaten into 8th place in VP 2020. Seven-year-old Evžen disappointed greatly in the first qualification race, finishing last. Mazhilis and Mustamir were both distinguished classical steeplechasers, but have not distinguished themselves in crosscountry racing. Gonchar won the Czech Derby five years ago, but has achieved nothing since he began hurdling and crosscountry chasing two seasons ago.

The fourth Sunday in June is the traditional date for the Czech Derby. As usual, all 16 places in the starting boxes will be filled, with a couple more horses on stand-by. The favourite will be Irish-bred Hazarder, by Harzand out of a Montjeu mare. Hazarder is owned by Jiří Charvát and is trained by Pavel Tůma. He won the Dr. Otakar Frankenberger Memorial, a major Dderby trial, here in May, and a race at Pisa at the end of December. He will be ridden by Václav Janáček. In addition to the Derby, there are three Category I races. The first race is at 12.30, and the Derby will be run at 2.35 p.m., presumably to get on to the television screen before the football match begins.

Spectators are now allowed at racecourses again, but a long list of conditions should be complied with.