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.