There was much excitement in the build up to the 118th Velka Pardubicka with high hopes of a bumper foreign challenge with entries from the UK, Ireland, France and the first ever Italians making up twenty nine of the record sixty nine entries. In the end there was disappointment, the French stayed at home whilst the Irish challenge failed to materialize at the last minute over (I am told) disagreement over travelling expenses. But even if there were only three foreign challengers in a sixteen strong field it was still an excellent renewal. The UK sent over IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU, fourth in 2007 and the Charlie Mann trained NADOVER, who had, on his last start finished seventh in the Aintree Grand National. For the first time ever there was an runner from Italy, FATAL MAC, Italys best cross country steeplechaser the winner of Italys longest steeplechase at Merano three years running. For the home team the 2007 heroine SIXTEEN and another grey, the lightly raced AMANT GRIS made the most appeal as did the thirteen year old hero DECENT FELLOW appearing in the race for an incredible seventh time and newcomer, Bratislava specialist NUMERO DUE sporting the colours immortalized by Sagar in the eighties. Having enjoyed glorious sunshine in recent years Pardubice was shrouded in midst as the first races on the card were run and whilst the mist had gradually over the day faded, the sun resolutely refused to come out from behind the clouds come post time. From an even break the former eventer KLIP cut out the early running with IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU, HIRSCH and DECENT FELLOW. NADOVER, settled in the rear made a splash at the first water which turned out to be the races only early incident as for only the third time in the races history the field sailed over the Taxis without mishap (not even a stumble). Flying the Irish Bank, KLIP remained in the lead with IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU and AMANT GRIS close behind. The sixteen survivors made there way to the "In and Out" where the new leader IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU sailed over the first part of the fence. In fact it could be said he was a little too good as he only just managed to get a stride in to clear the second part (the Brits do struggle over this fence). Still there were no fallers although the field were by now strung out. SIXTEEN had settled in mid division whilst NADOVER appeared not to be enjoying the experience and only had two outsiders ICARE DE RENOM and KIRASJER behind him. The 2008 Velka had so far been fairly uneventful but on the approach to Fence 10A the most controversial incident in the races history was about to occur. After clearing fence ten the horses turn back on themselves and cross the middle of the course. There are two markers to guide the field on the right track. These have been in the same place for years and even in the days of pre-modification chaos have never caused a problem. IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU, KLIP and AMANT GRIS were disputing the lead when suddenly they veered to the right of the marker, the other riders caught unawares desperately tried to ensure that their horses remained to the left, the correct side of the marker. The three leaders cleared the fence but KLIP, who may have broken down on the approach to the fence came down in the most sickening of falls. Clearly for AMANT GRIS and IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU the race was over yet the two remained in front whilst the fancied NUMERO DUE and outsider JUNG were close up although JUNG`s challenge ended tamely at the drop fence. IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU and AMANT GRIS led over the two waters whilst both NUMERO DUE and JUVENTUS ridden by Josef Vana were lucky to survive whilst outsiders MARATH, PROFIL and the tailed off ICARE DU RENOM did not. By the second "In and Out" there were just ten left standing with NADOVER (who had never got into the race after his early mistake) struggling in last place. SIXTEEN running a much quieter race than twelve months before was biding his time under "Big" Joe Bartos and the old warrior DECENT FELLOW was still in with a shout. At the big English jump IVOIRE DE BEUALIEU`s challenge faltered and the race looked to be between DECENT FELLOW and the two flying greys. As the leaders made their way back on to the racecourse there was more drama as Josef Vana who had lost his whip stuck his hand out towards the Italian Raffaele Romano who was in the process of calling it a day on FATAL MAC. The Italian duly obliged by handing over his whip to the veteran who set off in vain pursuit of the leaders. By the second last the race was between the two greys who made a splendid sight as they raced together over the last and they continued their duel up the home straight. Despite Bartos` best efforts he was never able to get the mare ahead of AMANT GRIS who passed the post two and a half lengths in front. Rider Marek Stromsky, one of the Czech Republics top jump jockeys who had never even reached a place in six previous rides stood up in his irons arm aloft but looked a worried man and was not celebrating as wildly as would have been expected from a rider achieving a lifetimes ambition (something that was picked up by the Czech television commentator). All those in the stands knew that there was no way that AMANT GRIS could keep the race and it was no surprise when his disqualification was announced. For the first time the Velka was won in the stewards room and the very game mare SIXTEEN became the twentieth to win the race on two or more occasions.
Also Ran : FATAL MAC - Romano Raffaele 9 (pulled up 28th), NADOVER - Noel Fehily 7 (pulled up 26th), KASJER - Jaroslav Myska 8 (pulled up 22nd), ICARE DU RENOM - Martin Liska 12 (unseated rider 18th), MARATH - Josef Sovka 8 (unseated rider 17th), PROFIL - Jan Raja 8 (unseated rider 17th), JUNG - Bohuslav Matl 8 (unseated rider 15th), KLIP - Jan Faltejesek 12 (fell 10A), AMANT GRIS - Marek Stromsky 9 (finished 1st - disqualified), IVOIRE DE BEAULIEU - Keith Mercer 12 (finished 6th - disqualified)
Trainer : Josef Vana. Distances : 2 1/2-11-5-neck-1 3/4-16-17. Time : 8 mins 58.49 secs. COURSE RECORD
11th October 2009
Whilst there had clearly been some disappointment with the turn out in 2008, the Pardubice executive could have no complaints about the quantity of the 2009 Velka field. From a total of sixty entries a staggering twenty six horses were declared to run, the largest since 1990. One difference from 1990 was that the maximum field now allowed for the Velka was twenty five so for the first time in Velka history one unlucky horse, the Martina Ruzickova trained Rubin found himself eliminated. Whilst the field was undoubtably strong on quantity scratch below the surface and one could have argued that it was not in fact the strongest of line ups. SIXTEEN was back to seek a hat-trick of victories whilst her great rival from twelve months ago Amant Gris remained in his stable having picked up an injury in the summer. The best Czech chaser Moning Let was absent too having suffered a fatal injury in the May qualifier. Of the home challenge, the ex-German trained POCCI, NUMERO DUE and a lightly raced runner from the Josef Vana stable TIUMEN attracted attention. The foreign challenge could not be said to be a strong one, French trained JUFUL TENNIS had twice failed to complete the Cheltenham cross country course, whilst little was known about two of the Brits, LUCKY LUK and SUPER LORD. One that did have some form was LUCKY NELLERIE, trained by Ferdy Murphy who was a winner of the Durham National at Sedgefield whilst Charlie Manns MR BIG had competed in the military chases at Sandown and was possibly the best of the foreign challenge. With so many no hopers left in the field there was some concern as the twenty five runners were sent off in admirably ordered fashion that there would be carnage in the early stages of the race and a collective sigh of relief was audible as the field raced away from the Taxis with only one faller. The unlucky combination was HIRSCH and Dusan Andres who was having his fourth fall at the fence. In 2005 RED DANCER had blazed the trail and contributed to the then course record being smashed - he had had injuries since then but found himself one again blazing the trail with the outsider DERBY SHARP, sporting distinctive blue blinkers and the evergreen NUMERO DUE. LUCKY NELLERIE jumped to the fount at the Irish Bank and held a clear advantage as they came to Popkovices Jump, the Czech equivalent of the Canal Turn. However, like Superior Finish before him, LUCKY NELLERIE did not fancy the task and swerved to the right at the last minute throwing jockey Keith Mercer. Mercifully, unlike Superior Finish in 1998 he did not set of a disasterous chain reaction as the rest of the field cleared the fence with ease. This was the first major surprise of the 2009 Velka. Those that had expected chaos were surprised as jump after jump the huge field cleared without mishap so that by the two water jumps as incredible twenty two of the twenty five were still standing although outsider LIRAIN was making very heavy weather of it in rear and MR BIG like his stable companion Nadover the year before did not seem to be enjoying himself. NUMERO DUE, RED DANCER and DERBY SHARP disputed the lead over the final water where DERBY SHARP blundered and Bratislava specialist SHIRLEY, landed awkwardly breaking a leg continuing the Albertovec Studs wretched recent record in the race. SIXTEEN, POCCI and TIUMEN were all gaining on the leaders, Josef Vana fifty seven years young was playing a a tactical waiting game in about sixth place as the huge field negotiated the second in and out without incident. The British challenger SUPER LORD briefly made a challenge but the order remained mostly the same as the horses thundered towards the Big English Jump. RED DANCER and DERBY SHARP had done their bit. NUMERO DUE was still to the fore as he had been throughout whilst POCCI, SIXTEEN and TIUMEN were all handy. After Havels we had a breakaway group with NUMERO DUE and POCCI duelling for the lead ahead of SITEEN and TIUMEN. At the second last the two leaders were still ahead but TIUMEN had overtaken SIXTEEN, fifty seven year old Vana was getting the better of his stable jockey, thirty years his junior. Whilst POCCI and NUMERO DUE had their own private battle it was TIUMEN who was going the better, jumping the last in the lead and he forged clear to the tumultuous roar of the crowd, the Czech TV commentator was going ballistic...TIUMEN and Vana romped to victory by three and a half lengths, SIXTEEN stayed on in the closing stages to pass NUMERO DUE as POCCI faded into fifth place. It was Vanas fifth victory as a jockey and seventh as a trainer. He was having only his eigth ride in three years and on his one prior rode this year had looked extremely unfit when partnering the useful Welldancer to a distant last place in the Albertovec cross country chase. Watching that Albertovec race I formed the view that Vana looked finished as a jockey and I was not alone - several Czech commentators were voicing their opinions that Vana should really hang up his boots. I went further..I was rude. In my form guide for Course and Distance Racing I wrote this about Tiumens chances..."Any chances this one may have had has been scuppered by Vanas decision to ride him".....never have I been so wrong. It was perhaps best that I wasn`t at Pardubice this year but watching on Youtube with my jaw scraping the floor back home in darkest Kent.
Also Ran : MONTGOMERY - Petr Tuma 9 (unseated rider 29th), DEL SOLE - Josef Vana Jnr 7 (pulled up 29th), LIRAIN - Jaromir Hrudka 8 (unseated rider 24th), SHIRLEY - Marek Stromsky 8 (pulled up after 18th), LUCKY LUK - Jason Maguire 10 (unseated rider 15th), LUCKY NELLERIE - Keith Mercer 10 (refused & unseated rider 6th), HIRSCH - Dusan Andres 13 (fell 4th)
Eliminated : Rubin
Trainer : Josef Vana. Time : 9 minutes 19.56 seconds. Distances : 3.5-5-9-5-11-15-17-head-nose-sht-hd-sht-hd-3 3/4-2-1.5-distance-9-17
10th October 2010
TIUMEN was very much the forgotten horse in the build up to this years Velka as he was seen out just once finishing second in a Category 2 race at Pardubice in August. However, despite this they started favourite. It was a strong line-up with the winners of all four qualifiers in the field (MANDARINO, BREMEN PLAN, ASPIRANT & VALLDEMOSO) - the seven year old BREMEN PLAN was the pick of the debutants having won three times at the meeting over the the years. SIXTEEN was back as was her conqueror of 2008 AMANT GRIS who had won two small races at Pardubice in the spring. There was just one foreign runner this year, Charlie Manns MR BIG who was a surprising runner as he did not seem to enjoy himself the year before. From a ragged start BREMEN PLAN and JUNG were amongst the leaders as the field cleared the early fences without mishap. Josef Vana had settled TIUMEN in rear along with SIXTEEN whilst outsider LIGRETA ridden by Lucie Baluchova (having her first Velka ride for thirteen years) struggling in rear. BREMEN PLAN cleared the Taxis stylishly where one again there was just the one faller and once again the unfortunate jockey on the deck was Dusan Andres having been unseated from VALLDEMOSO. BREMEM PLAN still held the lead as the field made the turn towards the French jump (number 7) where the leader didn`t get far enough over the innocuous looking obstacle. Whilst the horses head did appear to hit the fence it still did not look the most serious of mistakes but in a matter of strides rider Jiri Kousek was on the floor. Another Velka debutant BEJRUT took over the lead with JUNG and AMANT GRIS and Marek Stromsky (who was making sure this year that they went the correct side of the marker on the approach to fence 10A) prominent. In rear LIGRETA, who had been making mistakes and appeared not up to the task this time took a heavy fall at fence 11. As with so many Velkas these days there was not too much action in the middle of the race as the order changed little. As for the sole Brit, once again Pardubice did not seem be a happy hunting ground for MR BIG with mistakes over the two water jumps and he was never a factor. At Havels both of Dr Charvarts two runners, ASPIRANT and BEJRUT their chances away. AMANT GRIS still held the lead but now wiley old Josef Vana who had been stalking the leaders throughout came to make his challenge. The two drew clear of SIXTEEN as they raced together over the final three hurdles. Turning into the home straight TIUMEN just held the advantage but AMANT GRIS would not be denied. On the run in, TIUMEN edged towards the rails and Stromsky had the door effectively closed on him. Switching to the outer AMANT GRIS was not done with. In the dying strides Vana appeared to have believed he had done enough and amazingly just yards from the post Vana dropped his hands as AMANT GRIS came with one last surge. The post came just in time and it was TIUMENS second Velka, Vanas seventh as a rider and eighth as a trainer. Spare a thought though for poor AMANT GRIS possibly the unluckiest horse in Velka history - to win and lose in the stewards room and then the victim of interference in the dying stages of another. At the time I thought Vana was lucky to keep the race but having watched it a few times since I have concluded that despite the interference Stromsky would still have been beaten. One of the most exciting Velkas for years. Incidentally I watched this years race on Youtube in a hotel room in Bratsilava later that evening - bizarrely the Velka was not broadcast on Slovak television.
Also Ran : TERESINA - Marcel Novak 8 (unseated rider last), IL EN REVE - Pavel Slozil (pulled up 22nd), JUNG - Bohuslav Matl 10 (pulled up 17th), LIGRETA - Lucie Baluchova 10 (fell 11th), BREMEN PLAN - Jiri Kousek 7 (unseated rider 7th), RUBIN - Martina Ruzickova 8 (unseated rider 6th), VALLDEMOSO - Dusan Andres 6 (unseated rider 4th)
Non Runner : Baggio
Trainer : Josef Vana. Time : 9 minutes 03.73 seconds. Distances : nose-3 1/4-2 1/4-3 3/4-3/4-distance-4 1/4-neck-3 1/4-17-16
9th October 2011
This year TIUMEN not only took part in a Velka qualifier but won it decisively with Josef Vana rolling back the years with another superb riding performance. He may have been saving himself to just two or three rides a season but he showed he was still fit enough to deserve yet another crack at the Velka. Again he started favourite and to be fair there didn`t seem a great deal to oppose him apart from the usual suspects SIXTEEN and AMANT GRIS who were both now in the twighlight of their careers as well as BREMEN PLAN looking to make amends for his uncharacteristic error the year before. However, the eight year old was without a win all season. Just fourteen runners lined up on an unseasonably cold day in front of a much smaller crowd than usual. There also seemed to be a smaller than usual contingent of die-hard fans from Britain and Ireland which may have been down to the fact that there were no foreign challengers this year. BREMEN PLAN and SIXTEEN were swiftly away and we had drama at the second fence with the fancied ZULEJKA crashing out. SIXTEEN uncharateristically found herself at the lead as they approached the Taxis where once again there was just a single faller. This year KARLSBAD came down and immediately behind him in last place TIUMEN and Josef Vana were brought to a standstill badly impeded. ASPIRANT struggled over the Irish Bank (a fence that always seems to cause him difficulties at Pardubice) and whilst BREMEN PLAN was untidy at Popkovices Turn (his rider called a cab) he cleared the seventh with no problems this itme. SIXTEEN remained in front and spent most of the race in that position. Having been held up in most of her races it was rare to see her put in such a dominant display but fence after fence she attacked and with her still leading as the field came to the Big English Jump it looked like the mare would win. Whilst one grey was running her best race for a couple of seasons the other grey AMANT GRIS was showing that the years had finally caught up with him. He was struggling when he made a mistake at the Big English Jump and his chance was gone. As with last year TIUMEN made his move after Havels where TREZORs run had come to an end and it was down to the two Josef Vana horses. SIXTEEN still lad over the last but on the run-in the master got the better of his talented stable jockey to draw clear to win. This was TIUMEN and Vans best performance - to beat the best Czech jockey Josef Bartos in the manner they did was nothing short of breathtaking
Also ran : LIRAIN - Josef Vana Jnr 10 (pulled up last), TREZOR - Bohuslav Matl 7 (fell 27th), KLAUS - Jaroslav Myska 6 (unseated rider 18th), KARLSBAD - Marcel Novak 8 (fell 4th), ZULEJKA - Libor Simunek 6 (fell 2nd)
Non Runner : Teviot
Trainer : Josef Vana. Time : 9 minutes 15.29 seconds. Distances : 1/2-2 1/2-12-3 1/4-4 3/4-1-1 1/4-distance
13th October 2012
In a break with tradition the 2012 Velka was run on a Saturday in an attempt to avoid a clash with Pardubices`other main sporting event the Golden Helmet Speedway meeting (hopeless..absolutely hopeless). Fortnately for the Pardubice executive a bumper crowd still made the piglrimage to Pardubice albeit several regular visitors from the UK stayed way. TIUMEN was back to try a record fourth straight Velka success but both horse and rider had had their setbacks. TIUMEN was kept off the track until September whilst Josef Vana broke his thigh at Easter in a training accident. In a twenty three strong field he started favourite although there was considerable support for TREZOR who had raced in two qualifiers and won them both. He was to be ridden by the 2009 Gand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell who had ridden the horse to both his victories and had been making several visits to Pardubice over the summer to prepare for the big day. There were three foreign trained runners including the best Irish challenger for years in the Willie Mullins trained UNCLE JUNIOR , winner of the La Touche Cup at Punchestown and the British entry MALJIMAR who seemed an ideal candidate. Both had been running in cross country events in France in preparation with MALJIMAR winning a valuable event at Fontainebleau. After heavy rain conditions were testing. From a level start the mare ORPHEE DES BLINS the least experienced runner in the field went straight into the lead....and stayed there. Apart from handing the initiative to KLAUS at the Irish Bank ORPHEE DES BLINS was never headed and turned the race into a procession. Jumping superbly throughout she was clear by the second In and Out and the result barring a fall was never in doubt. It was easily the most dominant performance since modifications and we saw the most convincing winner since Valencio in 1986. Reminding me very much of the runaway winner of the 1997 Grand National, Lord Gyllene ORPHEE DES BLINS simply destroyed the field. TREZOR and KLAUS chased her for most of the race but faded whilst TIUMEN simply never got into the race at all (a mistake at the Big Water didn`t help his chances). UNCLE JUNIOR was never a factor and MALJIMAR spent most of the race in the rear but made up considerable ground to finish fourth. It was a race of few incidents, BREMEN PLAN blundered and unseated at the Taxis and only two other riders ended on the floor. ORPHEE DES BLINS originated from France and won five steeplechases there before being exported to the Czech Republic in August 2008. She was having only her eighth start having missed nearly two years through injury and was a first Velka runner for Polish trainer Greg Wroblewski who was now based in the Czech Repubic having trained in Italy and his native Poland. A dual purpose trainer this was his biggest win over jumps since he landed the Swedish Grand National in 2004. Jockey Jan Faltejesek had been riding with some success in the north of England for trainer Alistair Charlton and had ridden in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier in the year. Normal service resumed in 2013 with the Velka returning to its traditional Sunday slot.
Also ran : SIXTEEN - Josef Bartos 12 (pulled up 26th), WYONA - Michal Kubik 6 (pulled up 24th), TOMIS - Bohuslav Matl 11 (pulled up 22nd), NIKAS - Petr Tuma 7 (unseated rider 21st), MANDARINO - Pavel Kasny 11 (pulled up 15th), ARGENTAN - Marek Stromsky (pulled up 14th), IMBIR - Niklas Loven 8 (unseated rider 9th), BREMEN PLAN - Jan Korpas 9 (unseated rider 4th)
Normal service resumed with the Velka returning to its traditional Sunday slot. ORPHEE DES BLINS was back and this year was a warm favourite at 2.75-1. After her Velka heroics she had been sent to Cheltenham to contest the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in November but, despite running prominently for most of the race, she faded on the final circuit and was pulled up. This year as reigning Velka heroine she could bypass the qualifiers but she had done all that was asked of her winning her two races at Pardubice effortlessly. She had even beaten the best short distance chasers in the valuable Valecnik Prize in June. There was also strong support for former three time winner TIUMEN despite him not having won a race since his final Velka triumph two years ago and for TREZOR who had won two more Velka qualifiers during the summer. Another to note was BUDAPEST who had previously been targeted at Italy's premier prizes and had twice finished placed in the Gran Premio di Merano. The Irish were three handed with MOUNT SION and FRENEYS WELL who were running in the colours of JP McManus and ZEST FOR LIFE giving top amateur and big race specialist Sam Waley Cohen his first ride in the Czech Republic. For the UK Nick Williams sent over SHALIMAR FROMENTRO who had been campaigned in cross country races in France, Two British riders were on board Czech horses, Liam Treadwell was not on TREZOR this year but partnered an outsider, the flashy grey SESLOST. There was some resentment from some of the local riders without a ride on learning that a young British seventeen year old amateur with limited experience over jumps, Freddie Mitchell was getting the mount on rank outsider CANTRIDARA. There was drama as the horses made their way to the start when ZEST FOR LIFE slipped up, fortunately the fall had not come at the practice jump, otherwise they would have been prevented from running. As the flag came down KLAUS was quickly away but held a slight lead over the first but come the second ORPHEE DES BLINS was back in front and....she stayed there. Whilst her performance mirrored that of twelve years ago (total dominance), unlike last year there was considerable grief behind her as the number of those chasing her got smaller and smaller. MOUNT SION was the first to go taking a nasty looking at the fall at the first water and whilst the Taxis claimed no scalps Popkovices Turn saw three depart including BUDAPEST and CANTRIDARA leaving a frustrated Mitchell throwing his helmet to the turf in anger. Two went at the next and when SHALIMAR FROMENTRO crashed out at the tenth fence there were only twelve left standing as loose horses criss-crossed the course reminiscent of pre-modification days. The French raider TROPIC DE BRION, KLAUS, STATUS QUO and outsider PEINTRE ABSTRAIT were in contention at half way whilst TIUMEN was struggling at the rear of the field with the Slovak outsider BODYGUARD. Sam Waley-Cohen was separated from ZEST FOR LIFE at the Drop fence and both KLAUS and STATUS QUO did their chances no good with mistakes at the big water. Meanwhile in front and oblivious to the chaos behind her ORPHEE DES BLINS kept jumping and galloping and whilst TROPIC DE BRION did his best to stay with her the result was never in doubt. TREZOR crashed out at Havels Jump (the second time the fence had claimed him) but he was a distant third at the time. It was another stunning performance by the mare. Only five horses crossed the line behind her, the final casualty being Josef Vana who, when challenging for the minor honours was slightly hampered by a loose horse and was unseated at the final fence. Fortunately he was unscathed and received warm applause as he walked back up the finishing straight. Was this to be an ignominious end to his great Velka career ?
Also ran : TIUMEN - Josef Vana 12 (unseated rider 30th), TREZOR - Josef Bartos 9 (unseated rider 27th), BODYGUARD - Jaroslav Brecka 7 (pulled up 27th), SESLOST - Liam Treadwell 9 (pulled up 23rd), STATUS QUO - Pavel Kasny 7 (unseated rider 19th), ZEST FOR LIFE - Sam Waley-Cohen 9 (unseated rider 15th), SHALIMAR FROMENTRO - Alain de Chitray 7 (fell 10th), FRENEYS WELL - Martin Ferris 13 (unseated rider 7th), TOMIS - Ondrej Velek 12 (fell 7th), BUDAPEST - Josef Vana Jnr 8 (unseated rider 6th), CANTRIDARA - Freddie Mitchell 7 (unseated rider 6th), SPERANZA - Thomas Boyer 8 (unseated rider 6th), AL JAZ - Michal Kohl 7 (unseated rider 5th), MOUNT SION - Richie McLernon 7 (fell 3rd)