In the summer of 2002 Central Europe had been gripped by the worst floods in living memory. Prague had been particularly badly hit resulting in it`s racecourse Velka Chucle being forced to remain closed after it`s traditional summer break. It had been raining heavily at Pardubice too with large puddles of surface water lying on the ploughed sections of the racecourse. Whilst the rain held off for the Velka itself the race would be run on the heaviest ground for years. Nineteen horses had been declared including two British neither of whom would ultimately line up. The Ferdy Murphy trained Paddy`s Return incurred a slight injury in running during the Gran Premio di Merano in Italy and stayed at home but Charlie Mann`s top of the ground specialist Celibate did make the trip. Mann cut a forlorn figure as he watched horse after horse struggle with the treacherous conditions in the supporting races. After seeing the very useful Sankt Moritz break a leg on the plough in the Labe Prize Mann had seen enough and withdrew his horse. Seventeen Czech trained runners did make it however and there was much interest in the grey KEDON ridden by Velka legand Josef Vana. Vana had had a much publicised dream that he would ride one more Velka winner on a grey horse and seven year old KEDON seemed to fit the bill. He had won ten times over jumps and finished second in one of the qualifiers. Running at a much slower than usual pace there were still fallers at the Taxis, , three came down including outsider BLIN, Czech trained but owned by a syndicate of West Country enthusiasts and ridden by British amateur Dominic Alers-Hankey. 2001 winner CHALCO had been prominent in the early stages of the race but after the In and Out he broke down badly and had to be pulled up. KEDON and Vana led the thirteen survivors at the relatively sedate pace. KEDON, CHARM, MASKUL and DECENT FELLOW were all prominent in a surprisingly incident free race. After the little Taxis the plough caused another casualty when POLEBOS slipped up on the flat and both MASKUL and KEDON stumbled on the plough after the In and Out. PERUAN had been held up as usual and started to make his move after the Big English jump. For a few strides it looked like the impossible was possible but by Havels the three times champion was struggling. The race looked to be between MASKUL ridden by German champion Peter Gehm and DECENT FELLOW. The two were locked together over the last three fences and it was MASKUL who finished the stronger going on to win by seven lengths. In all a very healthy total of ten runners had completed the course although PERUAN was not amongst them having been eased down to a walk after the last fence. Both MASKUL and DECENT FELLOW would go on to become Velka legands and four years later we would see the two heroes battle up the Pardubice straight again.
Also ran : PERUAN - Zdenek Matysik 14 (pulled up on the flat), TAVERN - Josef Bartos 8 (ran out after 27th), POLEBOS - Michal Kohl 9 (fell on the flat after 19th), BLIN - Mr Dominic Allers-Hankey (fell 4th remounted pulled up 13th), CHALCO - Vaclav Luka 10 (pulled up 10th), CZANKA - Pavel Mica (fell 4th) 9, ILION - Petr Regnard 12 (fell 4th)
Non Runners : Celibate, Paddy`s Return
Trained by Radek Havelka. Distances : 7-12-1 3/4-7-1 1/4-1/4-4 3/4-6. Time : 10 minutes 22.07 seconds
13th October 2003
All eyes were on a seven year old German bred mare called REGISTANA. Trained by Zelezniks handler Cestmir Olehla REGISTANA was easily the best Czech steeplechaser in training and was in scintillating form. She had already won at the meeting by winning the Czech Steeplechase Association Prize in 2000 and the Vlatavy Prize in 2001. This success had been the beginning of an incredible winning streak which saw her win seven of her next eight starts both at Pardubice and Merano. She had been successful in the June qualifier both this year and in 2002 when she was ineligble by age to run in the Velka. She had forged a successful partnership with Peter Gehm who was looking to ride the winner for an incredible third consecutive year each on a different horse. As for last years winner MASKUL he was being trained with the Velka in mind having just had the one run in 2003 in the June qualifier when he had been soundly beaten ten lengths by REGISTANA. Last years second DECENT FELLOW had already won twice this year in Germany including a second win in the prestigious Iffezheimer Chase at Baden Baden. He had won the August qualifier but he too had finished behind REGISTANA this time at Merano. The May qualifier had produced a surprise winner in FAHRENHEIT who had narrowly beaten last years Velka third KEDON. There were two foreign challengers in the field, FALCON DU COTEAU was trained by Charlie Mann. Running in the colours made famous by Mann's 1995 winner It's A Snip this French bred horse had won four races in his career but only had place chances at best. The Irish challenger MOSE HARPER was something of an unknown quantity with just the one win so far in his career in a small chase at Downpatrick two years previously. To add to the international flavour he was to be ridden by Australian jockey Steve Pateman who was having his first taste of riding in the Czech Republic. Run in glorious sunshine REGISTANA was quickest away leading over the first three fences with MASKUL and BARGIEL close up whilst FALCON DU COTEAU was settled in the rear making a mistake at the first water. REGISTANA flew over the Taxis where in mid division the handsome grey SORD pitched on landing unseating Josef Bartos. Ousider RENT was hampered and unseated Jaroslav Brecka. The two riderless horses disappeared into the wood whilst BARGIEL took the lead at the Irish Bank with KEDON making significant early progress. After the sixth fence the two riderless horses rejoined the field and SORD ran into KEDON knocking the luckless Radek Havelka out of the saddle. BARGIEL led over the seventh whilst FALCON DU COTEAU made an almighty mess of the fence and appeared to be struggling at this early stage. With the Irish/Australian dream ending at fence ten the now riderless MOSE HARPER did his best to cause trouble cutting across the field as they made the turn into fence 10A. BARGIEL, KYRTON, REGISTANA remained to the fore whislt RENAISSANCE DANCER shone briefly at the eleventh. At Poplars Rails REGISTANA made her first mistake of the race knocking out one of the rails. There was no more incident whilst BARGIEL continued to lead with REGISTANA always close behind whilst DECENT FELLOW was beginning to make ground. As the field approached Havels Jump REGISTANA had taken a clear lead followed by DECENT FELLOW, MASKUL & KYRTON. BARGIEL was beginning to struggle whilst FALCON DU COTEAU who had been in the rear up until now was beginning to make his move. There was more drama at Havels where KYRTON fell and BARGIEL was down on his nose. Directly in KYRTONS path was NARRATOR and jockey Jaroslav Myska performed the riding performance of the race as he neatly got his mount to jump over the fallen horse. REGISTANA had gone into a clear lead as she approached the racecourse and whilst DECENT FELLOW tried to challenge by the second last fence he was beating a retreat and MASKUL was looking one paced. However, the drama was not yet over. Landing awkwardly over the last REGISTANA started to drift towards the stands on the run-in. Seizing his chance Jiri Kamenicek on MASKUL started to reduce the mares lead. REGISTANA looked to be in trouble as she ran off a true line and looked to be hitting an invisible wall. She had idled when in clear leads before and suddenly it looked as if MASKUL would catch her. Perhaps sensing the challenge REGISTANA got a second wind just as It's A Snip had done seven years before and she powered home to win by three quarters of a length from the fast finishing MASKUL with seven lengths back to DECENT FELLOW. Having jumped badly left over the last two hurdles FALCON DU COTEAU was a distance back in fourth place. In all a very healthy number of ten horses had finished the course.
Did Not Finish - SZAFRAN (POL) - Michal Kohl 10 (unseated rider last fence), BARBARESCO - Petr Regnard 8 (pulled up 30th), KYRTON - Pavel Slozil 7 (fell 27th), RENAISSANCE DANCER (IRE) - Tomas Nehasil 8 (pulled up 26th), SALAMINI - Mr Rotislav Bens 10 (pulled up 12th), MOSE HARPER (IRE) - Steven Pateman 11 (unseated rider 10th), KEDON - Radek Havelka 8 (rider knocked out of saddle by loose horse before 7th), RENT - Jaroslav Brecka 12 (hampered & unseated rider 4th), SORD - Josef Bartos 8 (unseated rider 4th).
Trainer : Cestmir Olehla. Owner : Wrbna Racing. Distances 3/4-7-distance-20-20-8-12-5-distance. Time : 9 mins 30.14.
10th October 2004
REGISTANA returned with four more wins under her belt at Merano and Pardubice and was now unbeaten in her last eight starts. For the first time in his Velka career Peter Gehm was sticking with his previous winner. Such was REGISTANAS dominance in the build up to the race that there was some suggestion that the other sixteen runners were looking at second best at best. MASKUL was back although he had not won for two years and as ever Josef Vana sent out a strong team led by the lightly raced RETRIEVER the winner of the May qualifier and DECENT FELLOW who had won two valuable steeplechases at Baden Baden in Germany. There were three challengers from Ireland although none had any realistic chance but the Ferdy Murphy trained LUZCADOU, a first fence faller in the Aintree Grand National seemed to be an ideal Velka type. British racing fans were given a treat by Attheraces who broadcasted the race live albeit with an English commentary provided by Mike Vince. It was a game effort albeit Vince was in the studio in the UK and therefore his performance seemed a little stilted. BARGIEL and REGISTANA took the early lead and the mare sailed over the Taxis where for only the second time in the races history there were no fallers. Outsider JUNIUSZ had departed at the Irish Bank but sixteen horses headed out to the usually trouble free seventh fence. Hidden from the stands by the wood this fence is known as the "French Jump" and whilst it looks little more than a hedge it is deceptively wide. Too wide indeed for BARGIEL who did not get far enough and crumpled in an untidy heap. Immediately behind NARRATOR took a crushing fall which unsettled the first of the Irish CLAWICK CONNECTION who also came down whilst in rear MOSE HARPER and the rank outsider JESLADY were also on the floor. With the final Irishman, the grey HARRY IN A HURRY departing a couple of fences later there were just ten horses left with a number of loose horses criss-crossing the course in a scene reminiscent of the pre-modification days. In front REGISTANA, RETREIVER and MASKUL did their best to concentrate on events in hand. This was always REGISTANAS race and in my view the finest moment in her wonderful career. Whilst she allowed RETREIVER to make a brief bid for glory in the closing stages she was always in control and went on to record an easy nine length victory. There was no repeat of the drama of her previous win. RETREIVER gave Josef Vana another thrilling ride in second place. Only seven horses finished with LUZCADOU never really getting into the race before refusing at the English Jump, the very same fence that his former stable companion IRISH STAMP had so much trouble with. REGISTANA and Gehm next tackled Cheltenhams Cross Country course and were sent off hot favourites for the Sporting Index Cross Country Chase. Sadly despite dominating the race throughout Gehm took the wrong course in the closing stages of the race and the mare frustratingly ran out.
Also Ran : CHANSON - Lubos Urbanek 7 (pulled up 30th), LUZCADOU - Paul Moloney 11 (refused 25th), HASTAVEN - Jan Faltejesek 9 (pulled up 24th), HARRY IN A HURRY - Noel Fehily 7 (fell 10th), BARGIEL - Marek Stromsky 9 (fell 7th), CLAWICK CONNECTION - Ken Whelen 9 (fell 7th), NARRATOR - Michal Kohl 10 (fell 7th), JESLADY - Jaromir Stohanzl Jnr 7 (brought down 7th), MOSE HARPER - Jan Raja 12 (brought down 7th), JUNIUSZ - Pavel Kasny 7 (unseated rider 5th)
Non Runner : Kedon
Trainer : Cestmir Olehla. Distances : 9-6-7-17-11-distance. Time : 9 mins 15.48 secs
9th October 2005
Once again REGISTANA dominated the build up to the great race although, despite her three wins this year (two at Merano and her fourth consecutive June qualifier), there were rumours that all was not well at home and that the wonder mare had suffered one or two minor set backs. Although reputedly not at her brilliant best she was still a red-hot favourite in what was expected to be her final race before retirement to the paddocks. Once again she was opposed by DECENT FELLOW and MASKUL although the former had still never beaten the mare and had finished behind her in June and the latter was still without a win since his victory in the Velka three years ago. It was REGISTANAs stable companion HASTAVEN who had pulled up with a broken blood vessel the year before who was considered her main rival. Although he had only had the one run he had bolted up by a distance in the September qualifier. LUZCADOU returned from the UK for a second crack at the race which was a little surprising as he didn`t look to have enjoyed the experience too much last year. Ireland sent over TAKAGI who had run in a Grand National and over the Banks course at Punchestown. Run on a lovely warm sunny day REGISTANAS stable companion RED DANCER set off in front ahead of the mare and HASTAVEN. At the second fence a horse in yellow silks came down heavily. It must have been HASTAVEN but as the horses raced past the stands on the approach to the Taxis it could be seen that RED DANCER was clear of HASTAVEN who was himself clear of the rest of the field. To the astonishment of the vast crowd the commentator announced that it was REGISTANA who had come down. To stunned silence RED DANCER cleared the Taxis magnificently followed by HASTAVEN who overjumped and jockey Jan Faltejesek could not stay in the saddle. Apart from a mistake by the outsider CHAILAND the rest cleared the enormous ditch well. Some way behind the field the riderless REGISTANA continued on her way. RED DANCER continued at a break neck pace and the field were very strung out over Popkovices Turn and it was clear that some of the outsiders particularly LANERET and CHAILAND were struggling to keep up. The striking grey KEDON, JACK DU TRAOU LAND and MASKUL were leading the main bunch and seemed content to let RED DANCER contuinue at this suicidal pace. The Irish challenger TAKAGI was also going very well and seemed to be enjoying the experience far better than LUZCADOU who once again was toiling. At the Big Water tragedy struck as TAKAGI left his hind legs in the fence and came to a painful stop as jockey Jason Maguire almost slid off his neck. Veteran female jockey Martina Ruzickova in her first Velka ride for eight years was also thrown heavily to the floor. TAKAGI bravely got to his feet and struggled towards the "In and Out" which LUZCADOU made a complete mess of and shortly afterwards he called it a day. In front MASKUL and DECENT FELLOW were chasing RED DANCER who was coming to the end of his tether and he was finally passed at the final rails. Approaching Havels Jump the race was between the two veterans MASKUL and DECENT FELLOW. RED DANCER made a hash of Havels and the first steeplechase fence and was clearly very tired. KEDON giving Josef Vana abother wonderful ride was not fast enough and the packed crowd were treated to one of the finest finishes seen at Pardubice for years. DECENT FELLOW had a clear advantage over the second last fence and led into the straight but MASKUL was sticking to him and the two cleared the final fence together. The two were locked together up the straight, one stride MASKUL had taken the advantage, the next DECENT FELLOW had got his nose back in front. In the final strides it was advantage MASKUL who just prevailed in a thrilling climax to what had been an exiting race. MASKUL was ridden by German Dirk Fuhrmann for so long Germanys second best jump jockey and now the leading jockey in Central Europe. Sadly TAKAGI could not be saved and was put down later in the day. RED DANCER had finished an exhausted sixth of the seven finishers but his heroics had helped MASKUL to smash the course record.
Also Ran : NOSTALGIA - Jiri Kamenicek (pulled up 27th), IRAKLION - Radek Havelka 10 (unseated rider 25th), LUZCADOU - Keith Mercer 12 (refused 25th), TAKAGI - Jason Maguire 10 (fell 18th), CHAILAND - Martina Ruzickova 8 (unseated rider 18th), JACK DE TRAOU LAND - Vaclav Luka 8 (fell 11th), ODYSEUSZ - Marek Stromsky 7 (unseated rider 10th), HASTAVEN - Jan Faltejesek 10 (unseated rider 4th), REGISTANA - James Crowley 9 (fell 2nd)
Non Runners : Retreiver & Joint Authority
Trainer : Frantisek Holcak. Distances : 1/2-19-9-distance-distance-15. Time : 9 minutes 11.25 seconds * COURSE RECORD
8th October 2006
Retirement plans for Registana were put on hold and she appeared amongst the forty eight entries. However she was soundly beaten by HASTAVEN in the August qualifier and was immediately retired. HASTAVEN therefore flew the flag for the Wrbna team. He had now won three qualifiers in three successive years but was still looking to finish the Velka for the first time. There were no foreign runners this year for the first time since 1997 yet that did not put off the usual large enthusiastic contingent of Irish and British racegoers who once again descended on Pardubice. It was a strong renewal, reigning champion MASKUL had won a competitive race at Pardubice in August and started favourite, DECENT FELLOW who had now finished third twice and second twice in four attempts had won the June qualifier and was once again expected to run a big race. There were high hopes too for IRAKLION the May qualifier winner who had already won three Poplar Prizes at the meeting, GLOGLOGLO and the one eyed NER who had twice won the Pardubice Gold Cup the most prestigious race run over the conventional steeplechase course. For the fourth year running the race was run in glorious sunshine and KLIP who had spent seven years as an eventer took the early lead with HASTAVEN and NER prominent. At the Taxis there was a throwback to the old days when outsider ELISKA PREMYSLOVNA spooked on the approach to the fence and threw her jockey Bohuslav Matl through the fence. It was an uncomfortable end for the jockey who had only picked up the ride just half an hour beforehand. Having been relatively trouble free in recent years the Taxis claimed three other scalps, IRAKLION, GLOGLOGLO and sole girl Martina Ruzikova on CHAILAND. Jockey Radek Havelka performed miracles to stay in the saddle on CIESZYMIR. KLIP continued in front jumping for fun ahead of MASKUL and NER. At the tenth fence HASTAVEN blundered and in an instant jockey Jan Faltejesek found himself standing by his horse. So far a number of fancied runners had departed and there were gasps from the crowd as MASKUL took a very uncharacteristic fall at fence 10A. Everything was literally falling into place for DECENT FELLOW, the perennial bridesmaid. Would he finally make it to the altar ? KLIP surrendered the lead at the "Drop" and DECENT FELLOW was never headed thereafter. When his last realistic challenger NER came a cropper with a slipped saddle at fence twenty four he only had CIESZYMIR for company. Both horses owned by the Czech Republics leading owner Dr Charvart made a fine sight as they crossed the final plough together but the result was never in doubt and DECENT FELLOW recorded an easy six length victory to the delight of his young rider Josef Bartos who was also running away with the jockeys championship. DECENT FELLOW was a very popular winner and whilst it could be said that he had had a fairly easy task as all his serious rivals had fallen by the wayside he thoroughly deserved his day in the sun.
Also Ran : NER - Tomas Hurt 9 (unseated rider 24th - saddle slipped), JUNIUSZ - Paul Andrew Johnson 9 (unseated rider 18th), MASKUL - Dirk Fuhrmann 12 (fell 10A), HASTAVEN - Jan Faltejesek 11 (unseated rider 10th), VAJGARA - Dusan Andres 7 (fell 6th), CHAILAND - Martina Ruzickova 9 (fell 4th), ELISKA PREMYSLOVNA - Bohuslav Matl 10 (unseated rider 4th), GLOGLOGLO - Vaclav Luka 9 (fell 4th), IRAKLION - Jiri Kamenicek 11 (fell 4th)
Trainer : Josef Vana. Distances : 6-
14th October 2007
Royalty graced Pardubice this year with a surprise visit by the Princess Royal making the first visit to Pardubice by a British member of the Royal family. Unfortunately she was not going to witness a classic Velka as this years race was considered somewhat substandard. DECENT FELLOW and MASKUL once again looked to have the race between themselves. DECENT FELLOW had taken the June qualifier whilst MASKUL making his seventh appearance in the race had won a small race at Pardubice in June and had then finished third behind SIXTEEN in the September qualifier. It was rather depressing to be tipping a thirteen year old and a twelve year old but other younger realistic challengers were looking very thin on the ground this year. A grey mare called SIXTEEN looked to represent the best of the younger generation. At seven she was making her Velka debut but had proven form at Merano and had won last years Labe Prize. This year she had won the September qualifier but it was noted that stable jockey Josef Bartos had preferred DECENT FELLOW leaving SIXTEEN to be partnered by veteran jockey Dusan Andres. Ferdy Murphy, a good friend to Pardubice over the years sent over the French bred IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU who had won over the cross country course at Cheltenham. The other two foreign raiders were Irish trained THREE MILL and the French bred British trained SYBELLIUS D'ARTAIX who were very much making up the numbers and had no realistic chance. In fact SYBELLIUS D'ARTAIX had been pulled up very early on in the Grand Steeplechase de Flanders on his last start. Josef Vana was missing this year having been injured in a last fence fall at the August meeting so son Josef Junior got his first ride on JUVENTUS. With no-one very keen to make the running MASKUL found himself in the lead approaching the Taxis. The horse clearly did not want to be there and he hesitated on take off with disasterous results. Falling, he came very close to DECENT FELLOW who in turn unsighted CIESZYMIR. MASKUL was on the floor and poor CIESZYMIR who never had a chance to rise at the fence properly fell into the ditch and it was clear as he struggled out that he was severely injured. The twelve survivors continued on their way in what was thereafter a fairly uneventful race. DECENT FELLOW was left to make the running joined initially by the rank outsider ZEEROW and then by ELISKA PREMYSLOVNA who was running the race of her life. SIXTEEN, who had been tracking DECENT FELLOW in third place in the latter stages of the race made her move after Havels Jump and whilst DECENT FELLOW led into the straight the mare effortlessly swept past him and went on to win very comfortably by seven lengths. DECENT FELLOW clearly showing his age was no match for the younger mare and the fact that ELISKA PREMYSLOVNA, a very moderate mare was only three lengths away in third place called into question the form of the race. The big disappointment had been JUVENTUS who jumped badly and never mounted a serious challenge. Sadly CIESZYMIR had to be destroyed and with outsider POLARNIK suffering fatal injuries on the flat in the closing stages there was much criticism of the race in the Czech press. MASKULS jockey Jaroslav Myska also came in for much criticism but he had been left in an impossible position at the Taxis with a horse who had been left in front and clearly didn't want to be there. On a more happy note veteran jockey Dusan Andres was a popular winner as he had been riding with success both on the flat and over jumps since the eighties and he became the first modern day rider to partner both a Czech Derby and a Velka Pardubicka winner.
Also Ran : POLARNIK - Pavel Slozil 8 (pulled up 30th), THREE MILL - Jan Faltejsek 10 (unseated rider 18th), BRAMBUSCH - Radek Havelka 11 (pulled up 15th), MASKUL - Jaroslav Myska 13 (fell 4th), CIESZYMIR - Marek Stromsky 9 (hampered & fell 4th)
Non Runner : Honor.
Trainer : Josef Vana. Distances : 7-3 1/4-2 1/4-1 3/4-20-distance-10-distance. Time : 9 mins 18.66 secs.