OPHEE DES BLINS returned having had two easy wins this year at Pardubice. Could she become the first mare since Lady Anne to win three Velkas ? Once again TIUMEN (who was still without a win since this final Velka win three years ago) and TREZOR (who had won his fifth Velka qualifier on his only start this term) were her main market rivals. There were no Irish or French challengers this year. Enda Bolger and JP McManus had decided not to return to Pardubice after Mount Sion had been killed the year before. The sole foreign entrant was the Charlie Mann trained LAMBRO who whilst carrying the colours of former hero It`s A Snip did not to be frank look up to the task. On another gloriously sunny and warm autumn afternoon there was a rare false start but at the second time of asking ORPHEE DES BLINS went off in front with UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and NIKAS close up. There were a few mistakes at the first water notably from LAMBRO and SHERARDO but all twenty two runners were still standing as they made the usual charge to the Taxis. The fence that had claimed so few scalps in recent years saw chaos. NIKAS, unseated, AMARAGON took a heavy fall and several were badly hampered. Worse, ZULEJKA did not get high enough and simply fell into the ditch whilst her jockey Josef Bartos laid on his back looking like he had been killed. Poor LAMBRO who was already struggling found himself upsides ZULEJKA and, unsighted came to complete stop as he tried to avoid the other fallers. When PEINTRE ABSTRACT threw rider Lukas Matusky into the Irish Bank (and he too looked seriously injured) it looked like we were in for another war of attrition. Fortunately things settled down and were no further incidents until the grey TER MILL unseated at the English jump twenty fences later. ORPHEE DES BLINS remained in front with UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and the veteran maiden RUBIN with his rider/trainer, the ever popular Martina Ruzickova on board. She had first ridden in the race in 1991 and was still looking to complete the course for the first time. Whilst she remained in front ORPHEE DES BLINS was not allowed to dominate as she had done in previous years and also had to contend with the attraction of two loose horses along the way. As she turned back onto the racecourse proper for the final three hurdles she still had several of her rivals close behind notably KLAUS and the outsider AL JAZZ who was making progress whilst the gallant RUBIN started to drop back. With two fences to go ORPHEE DES BLINS was clear but AL JAZZ was not going to give up and in the home straight for the first time in her Velka career this wonderful mare was shown the whip as Jan Faltejesek drove her on in a desperate finish to just hold on from the ever present AL JAZZ. In the end ORPHEE DES BLINS prevailed but only by three quarters of a length. After the grief early on in the race it was with relief to see that seventeen horses had completed the course. In a distant last place was LAMBRO who clearly hated the experience and who had had his confidence knocked out of him at the Taxis. Another terrible mistake at the big water also did not help. In front of him was TIUMEN who had toiled in rear for a second Velka in a row. The remarkable Josef Vana was now sixty one and this was his twenty eighth ride. There was a feeling that this was probably the end. A mention must be given to Martina Ruzickova on RUBIN who weakened rapidly to finish sixteenth but she would have been delighted to have finally got round safely. Sadly ZULEJKA was killed at the Taxis, the second fatality at the fence since the modifications some twenty one years previously re-opening the debate about the safety of the race and whether the ditch should be filled in for good.
Also Ran : TER MILL - Michal Kohl 8 (unseated rider 25th), PEINTRE ABSTRAIT - Lukas Matusky 8 (unseated rider 5th), AMARAGON - Martin Liska 9 (fell 4th), NIKAS - Dusan Andres 9 (unseated rider 4th), ZULEJKA - Josef Bartos 9 (fell 4th)
Trained by : Gregorsz Wroblewski. Time : 9 minutes, 08.25 seconds. Distances : 3/4-13-1-3-6-5-neck-4.5-neck-7-1-distance-3/4-4 1/4-5-distance
11th October 2015
Orphee des Blins and Tiumen were both retired after the 2015 season so there would be a new champion this year. Perpetual qualifier winner Trezor was also not in the field. Also missing was Josef Vana in the saddle as, whilst he would be saddling three of the twenty two strong field, he would be watching from the stands this year. This was very much a local Velka with no runners from either Ireland or the UK - Charlie Mann, like Enda Bolger a year before him had announced that he would no longer be sending runners to Pardubice. Favourite in this new look Velka was the undoubtabley talented but very wayward RABBIT WELL. Having proved himself the best classical steeplechaser in the Czech Republic he was now being aimed at the Velka. When he was good be was very very good with three wins this season including the First of May Chase at Lysa and the August qualifier. However he had a tendency to play up at the start and it was not unusual for him to refuse to race. This happened on his third start of the season at Pardubice in June. Despite his temperament punters were prepared to take a chance on him. Next best was UNIVERSE OF GRACIE who would have Orphee des Blins jockey Jan Faltejesek on board. Winner of the May qualifier he had finished fourth the previous year. AL JAZ who had run the race of his life to nearly cause an upset the year before was also fancied although he had not won all season and the useful but inexperienced SOKOL also came in for support. He was to be ridden by Englishman Tom Garner. Mention should also be made of KLAUS, twice placed in the Velka who was making his fifth appearance in the race. For the third year running the race was run on a glorious sunny and warm autumnal afternoon and for the fourth year running Jan Faltejsek elected to make the running. UNIVERSE OF GRACIE led in the early stages from KASIM, RIBELINO and the sole foreign challenger, the French trained PASQUINI ROUGE. TER MILL made a dreadful mistake at the second but all were still standing at the Taxis. Fortunately there was not a repeat of the grim scenes of a year earlier but the big ditch did provide to much for NEBRIUS who crumpled on landing directly in the path of PARETO who was brought down. There were anxious moments for NEBRIUSs rider Jacob Kocman who was momentarily hung up in the stirrups. Yet again it was Popkovices Turn which caused problems with four coming to grief including SOKOL and moments later (and fortunately hidden from the stands behind the small wood) there was a very grim incident. A loose horse ran into PEINTRE ABSTRAIT bringing the house to the ground. As he got to his feet he appeared injured and fell to back down. Fortunately he had simply got his feet tangled in the stirrups and he was perfectly fine afterwards. Fortunately things began to calm down. UNIVERSE OF GRACIE remained in front with KASIM and HIPO JAPE close behind. TEMPLAR was making mistakes whilst ORIX was struggling in rear. At the drop fence there were mistakes form RIBELINO and GAUNER DANON. His Bulgarian jockey Sertash Ferhanov desperately clung onto the horses neck before gravity finally won out. There were no further fallers and UNIVERSE OF GRACIE remained in the lead although after the English jump there were many lining up behind him and he was looking vulnerable. REBELINO and NIKAS in particular were looking dangerous and it was NIKAS who swept past the long time leader after the third last hurdle. This was NIKAS' fourth Velka and he had twice failed to finish and was not expected to be featuring in the finish. Rider Marek Stromsky had finished first past the past in 2008 on Amant Gris but had been disqualified for missing a marker. Trainer Stanislav Popelka had been training for years but never managed to come close in the Velka. Theirs was a popular victory as NIKAS drew clear to win by three and three quarter lengths from RIBELINO and ZARIF. The favourite RABBIT WELL had consented to start but never got into the race and when he was down on his nose at the final water whatever slim chances he had evaporated. Sadly Stromskys wretched luck was to continue when NIKAS failed a post race dope test. Connections had to wait three months to learn their fate whilst the horses B sample was analysed. Traces of theobromine and caffeine were found in his urine sample, and the results were confirmed at the end of January 2016. There was no option but to disqualify NIKAS and award the race to RIBELINO.The Disciplinary Committee determined that the presence of these banned substances was due to incorrect labelling of food supplements supplied to the trainer. For this reason, and because of the trainers long-term good conduct and good reputation, it was not necessary to punish him further. The result meant that veteran rider Pavel Kasny who had been champion jockey in the mid nineties would record his first Velka winner albeit by default.
Also Ran : HIPO JAPE - P.Tuma 9 (pulled up 29th), ORIX - V.Korytar 8 (pulled up 29th), GAUNER DANON - S.Ferhanov 9 (unseated rider 15th), AMARAGON - M.Liska 10 (fell 10th), PEINTRE ABSTRAIT - C.Chan 9 (knocked over by loose horse after 6th), AL JAZ - J.Sovka 9 (fell 6th), SHERARDO - L.Sloup 11 (hampered & unseated rider 6th), SOKOL - T.Garner 8 (fell 6th), TER MILL - O.Velek 9 (hampered & unseated rider 6th), NEBRIUS - J.Kocman 7 (fell 4th), PARETO - M.Rigo 8 (brought down 4th). NIKAS - Marek Stromsky 10 (finished 1st disqualified).
Trainer : Stanislav Kovar. Time : 8 minutes 56.01 seconds (Nikas time was 8 mins 55.29 secs). Distances : 3 3/4-3 1/2-2 1/2-5-6-1 1/2-10-6-3 1/4-3.
9th October 2016
There was a smaller than usual entry, the Brits and Irish stayed away and of the handful of French entries none made it to Pardubice. This would be an all Czech affair both for horse and rider. Favourite was the unfortunate NIKAS who had shown some promise in the September qualifier but the more interesting prospect was Velka debutant CHARME LOOKE who had won a very competetive qualifier in August. Trained Martina Ruzickova herself a veteran of several Velkas her usual rider Barbara Malkova had been sidelined due to an injury picked up at the August meeting so Jan Faltejesek took the ride whilst Malkova had to make do with leading the horse in the preliminaries. Last years runner up, the ultra consistant ZARIF and the talented but wayward RABBIT WELL were next best in the betting. Unfortnately for his supporters RABBIT WELL decided that this was to be one of his non-going days as whilst he started his efforts lasted about five strides and he pulled himself up. UNIVERSE OF GRACIE, NIKAS, TER MILL and PARETO were amongst the early leaders with NIKAS prominent. At the Taxis NIKAS landed awkwardly and despite the luckless Stromskys efforts he was pitched out of the saddle several strides after the fence. In rear outsider REAPER also unseated and the horse came to a standstill, the reins caught up in a foreleg. As far as spectacle was concerned that was pretty much it. The fences held little fear for the twelve survivors apart from UNIVERSE OF GRACIE who ploughed through fence 10. CHARME LOOK and the grey TER MILL disputed the lead, the latter carrying his head very low, TEMPLAR, PEINTRE ABSTRAIT and HEGNUS were all prominent with ZARIF and the white faced ANGE GUARDIAN held up in rear. To be frank not a great deal happened in the race, by the second water ZARIF was making progress and CHARME LOOK and TER MILL continued to dispute the lead. TEMPLAR made a bid for glory after Havels jump as TER MILL dropped back but by three out nothing was going better than CHARME LOOK who first of all dispartched TEMPLAR and then ANGE GUARDIAN who disputed the lead at the last but had nothing more to give as CHARME LOOK extended his lead to win by a comfortable ten lengths. In all ten of the runners completed in the least eventful Velka since Peruans final win in 2000. This was Faltejeseks fourth Velka win in five years. It was a very popular victory for Martina Ruzickova who had been associated with the race since the early nineties.
Also ran : UNIVERSE OF GRACIE - Vlatislav Korytar 11 (unseated rider 24th), NIKAS - Marek Stromsky 11 (unseated rider 4th), REAPER - Jakub Spacil 7 (unseated rider 4th), RABBIT WELL - Josef Vana Jnr 10 (refused to race)
Trainer : Martina Ruzickova. Time : 9 mins 42.86 secs. Distances : 10-6-2 1/2-1-1 1/4-2 1/2-3-distance-distance-2
8th October 2017
Run on very soft conditions with standing water on the plough the 127th Velka was always going to be an attritional affair. Once again the Brits and Irish stayed away proving once and for all that the love affair with the Velka was at an end. However this year there was a strong French challenge with three cross country specialists declared to run including URGENT DE GREGAINE who had sprung a surprise when winning over the Cheltenham cross country course earlier in the year. In the end the heavy conditions ruled out the useful Virtrus D'Estruval meaning that Jan Faltejesek was without a ride. Of the home challenge reigning champion CHARME LOOK now ridden by Marek Stromsky was the pick of the home challenge with victory in the August qualifier. Velka debutant NO TIME TO LOSE had chased him home that day and had won the Vlatavy Prize on Velka day last year. The ever consistent ZARIF who had won the May qualifier, UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and the mare DELIGHT MY FIRE winner of Polands top steeplechase at Wroclaw also came in for support. On flag fall UNIVERSE OF GRACIE as usual raced prominently with another old timer KASIM and the French SONGE D'ESTRUVAL in the front line. TEMPLAR who had raced so prominently the year before was amongst the leaders at the Taxis but he crashed out along with outsider PARETO who was unseated. At the Irish Bank SONGE D'ESTRUVALs race ended as he ploughed headfirst into the obstacle bringing outsider SIXTYSEVEN to a complete standstill on top of the bank. By Popkovices turn the field was already strung out with a number of outsiders struggling at this early stage. The blinkered BRIDGEUR made the running with URGENT DE GREGAINE, TER MILL and CHARME LOOK prominent. There were surprisingly no more fallers but the ground was taking it's toll. ELDORADO was the first to cry enough after Poplars rails and NIKAS was making very heavy weather in the conditions and was some way behind the survivors. It was clear by half way that there would not be many finishers in the stamina sapping ground. BRIDGEUR continued to lead until after the final water when URGENT DE GREGAINE took over and by the Big English jump the French horse held a commanding lead. By now NIKAS and several others had cried enough and KASIM was still going but some way behind. CHARME LOOK was struggling in the ground, BRIDGEUR was fading and the challenge appeared to come from ANGE GUARDIAN who had been much more prominent his year and NO TIME TO LOSE. Both sporting green colours the two Czech fancies chased URGENT DE GREGAINE across the final water soaked plough to the last cross country jump Havels where ANGE GUARDIAN pecked badly on landing. URGENT DE GREGAINE and British jockey Felix de Giles making his Velka debut were still clear two out and it was looking like the French's shocking record of the past twenty years was coming to an end. He still led at the last but NO TIME TO LOSE was bearing down on him. URGENT DE GREGAINE and NO TIME TO LOSE raced up the straight on opposite sides of the course with the Czech horse wearing down the French raider and running out a length and half winner. The two were clear of DELIGHT MY FIRE and the ever dependable ZARIF whilst ANGE GUARDIAN had slowed to almost a walk in fifth place. Former winner CHARME LOOK cut a sorry sight pulling up when tailed off at the final obstacle. NO TIME TO LOSE was an incredible tenth victory as a trainer for Josef Vana and a first winner for reigning champion jockey Jan Kratochvil.
Also ran : CHARME LOOK - Marek Stromsky 10 (pulled up 30th), SIXTYSEVEN - Lukas Sloup 8 (pulled up 26th), MAUGLI - Martin Liska 11 (pulled up 25th), POWER ZAR - Sertash Ferhanov 8 (pulled up 25th), VAL DE GUYE - Jan Derych 8 (pulled up 25th), TER MILL - Jan Odlozil 11 (pulled up 25th), NIKAS - Petr Tuma 12 (pulled up 20th), ELDORADO - Rotislav Bens 10 (pulled up 15th), SONGE D'ESTRUVAL - Colm McCormack 11 (fell 5th), PARETO - Pavel Slozil Jnr 10 (unseated rider 4th), TEMPLAR - Kevin Guignon 10 (fell 4th)
Non Runner : Virtus D'Estruval
Trainer : Josef Vana. Time : 9 mins 39.98 secs. Distances : 1 1/2-8-16-11-7-distance-distance
14th October 2018
Once again there were no UK or Irish entrants this year. However, four UK based jockeys, dual Grand National winning jockey Leighton Aspell, James Best, Thomas Garner and Andrew Glassonbury took rides with French based Brit Felix de Giles who so nearly managed to win on his first ride last year picked up a spare. Throw in a Swede, an Italian, two Slovaks and a Bulgarian and as far as riders were concerned it was a truly international affair. Sadly the 2016 winner Charme Look suffered career ending injuries in the May qualifier but last years winner NO TIME TO LOSE was in good form winning the August qualifier. ANGE GUARDIAN who nearly lasted home in 2016 had won two qualifiers and the Polish bred newcomer STRETTON were two for the shortlist. A number of old favourites were in the field, KASIN, PARETO, UNIVERSE OF GRACIE, TER MILL and ZARIF were all lining up in their fifth Velka whilst NIKAS was running in his seventh ! On a glorious warm autumnal afternoon the twenty strong field was dispatched in a slightly more ragged line than usual and it was somewhat surprising that they were not called back. BRIDGEUR sporting his distinctive green blinkers was the first away with UNIVERSE OF GRACIE and TER MILL prominent. KASIM pecked at the second but all twenty were still standing as they made the customary dash to the Taxis. In a scene reminiscent of the old days TER MILL landed awkwardly and unseated his rider whilst UNIVERSE OF GRACE landed in a heap with VODORYS and Felix De Giles spare ride was a brief affair as TEMPLAR came down at the fence for the second year running. Leighton Aspell was thrown over the Irish Bank and when DELIGHT MY FIRE came down at Popkovices Turn as KASIM uncharacteristically came to a halt it looked like we were in a for a pretty attritional race with a third of the field already out of the race. However as in recent years things settled down, the pace slowed and the fences held little fear for the survivors. BRIDGEUR continued in front from HEGNUS, TZIGANE DU BERLAIS and STRETTON who were all prominent as was NIKAS who was belying his thirteen years. ZARIF was being held up whilst outsiders ARTISTMONTOT, PARETO and MILERYT were already struggling in rear. The order remained pretty much the same over the next few fences and there were no further fallers. PARETO struggled over the Drop and ARTISTMONTOT blundered at the big Water. BRIDGEUR was still in front as the field turned into the final three steeplechase fences but they were queuing up behind him ANGE GURDIAN swept to the lead two out and looked to be going the strongest with STRETTON , HEGNUS and TZIGANE DU BERLAIS in a line behind. ANGE GUARDIAN clearly does not stay the full Velka distance as once again he weakened up the straight and it was TZIGANE DU BERLAIS ploughing a lone furrow on the stands side who swept into the lead under Jan Faltejesek and despite the horses breast girth hanging dangerously loose around his forelegs he recorded a convincing victory by three lengths from HEGNUS, STRETTON and ZARIF who was reaching the frame for the fourth year running. TZIGANE DU BERLAIS was something of an unknown quantity despite carrying the colours Dr Charvart who was winning his second Velka folllowing Decent Fellows victory in 2006. For Jan Faltejesek it was his fifth victory in the race in a seven year period.
Also Ran : ARTISMONTOT - Ondrej Velek 8 (pulled up 27th), MILERYT - Michal Kubik 11 (pulled up 24th), DELIGHT MY FIRE - Niklas Loven 8 (unseated rider 6th), KASIM - Maerin Liska 13 (refused 6th), VAJGAROS - Leighton Aspell 7 (unseated rider 5th), TEMPLAR - Felix de Gilles 11 (unseated rider 4th), TER MILL - Jan Odlozil 12 (unseated rider 4th), UNIVERSE OF GRACIE - Lukas Sloup 13 (fell 4th), VICODYS - Josef Bartos 9 (fell 4th)
Trained by : Pavel Tuma. Time : 9 minutes, 05.56 seconds. Distances : 3-neck-2 1/2-21/4-4-13-15-17-18-dist
Yet another gloriously sunny autumnal afternoon with not a cloud in the sky. For once we had a UK challenger, the David Pipe trained RATHLIN ROSE owned by Fergus Wilson who had run Sybellius D'Artaix in 2007. This was a much more serious proposition as he had won both the Royal Artillery & Grand Military Gold Cups at Sandown and had two wins at Ascot under his belt. A lack of experience round the unique course would of course be a problem. James Best would be having his second ride in the race. Andrew Glassonbury and Grand National winning jockey Leighton Aspell were also back with Aspell hoping to get further on TALENT than he had done the year before. Last years winner TZIGANE DU BERLAIS had been beaten by HEGNUS in the May qualifier and then ran pretty lifelessly in September behind a number of his rivals. You could not argue with the reigning champion though and he started favourite at ludicrously short odds of 3.75-1. TALENT was victorius in the September race and attrated some support as did THEOPHILOS a last minute withdrawal last year. This year he would have the assistance of Josef Bartos. ANGE GUARDIAN remained my selection despite the obvious fact that he did not seem to last out the full Velka distance. However this lovely white faced horse was unbeaten in three starts at Pardubice this year winning two qualifiers taking his total to four in these races. This year we had a false start but the runners were called back with commendable ease. To be honest the actual start second time round was not much better. The usual suspects, PLAYER and STRETTON raced to the front with RIBELINO and SZTORM not far behind. All were still standing by the Taxis where RIBELINO who was disputing the lead came down and immediately behind TZIGANE DU BERLAIS had joined him. Two former winners caught out by the Taxis along with two others. STRETTON, PLAYER and front runner BRIDGEUR were to the fore. The Irish Bank caused no problems this year but for a second year runnning DELIGHT MY FIE got no further than Popkovices Turn. As seems to be the case in recent Velkas the survivors having cleared the first six fences settled down, eased the pace and survived fence after fence with no real issues. BRIDGEUR had forced his way to the front where he liked to be, STRETTON PLAYER, VANDUAL, TALENT and the Brit RATHLIN ROSE were close behind whilst at the rear ANGE GUARDIAN was being held up no doubt in an attempt to reserve every last gasp of stamina for that final push up the home straight. PLAYER disappeared after the Snake Ditch water, he appeared to jump it cleanly but he didn't take the big water and could be seen continuing riderless thereafter. KROCOLEON, who had been in rear throughout, appeared to break down badly at the usualy incident free Dry Ditch (fence 22). BRIDGEUR was still leading when he blundered badly at Havels, whilst down on his hind legs his rider clung on but his race was over. THEOPHILOS who had been just off the leaders throughout took the lead, STRETTON was still there as was RATHLIN ROSE, STRETTON and CHICNAME DE COTTE. TALENT was not far behind and ANGE GUARDIAN was making up ground At the last it was just STRETTON ahead but there were three in line as they raced up the home straght, THEOPLHILOS, CHICNAME DE COTTE and STETTON were stretched out across the width of the track. It was the most exciting finish in years with THEOPHILOS being driven out to win by one and a quarter lengths from CHICNAME DE COTTE with STRETTON just a half length away in third place. "Big Joe" Bartos, the best rider in the Czech Republic and Italy was recording his third Velka win after Decent Fellow in 2006 and being awarded the race on Sixteen in 2008. In all twelve had finished. After the first six fences it had been a relatively incident free race which seems to be the pattern now of the modern day Velka.