One of you good readers and members is off to the Czech Republic, as a birthday gift, to watch this most famous of races. Harry, the young man in question (as young as you feel! :)) asked if I had any advice re the big race or betting in general over there. The short answer was- I don’t have a sodding clue.
Thankfully, one of my good pals, Martin Pennington, knows plenty. As per his twitter bio (you can follow him HERE>>) he is a… Racing Odds Compiler, P2P Reporter/Writer/Advisor, Owner, etc. Part owner of Ididandididn’t & Alfa Wolf.
We meet up in Liverpool every couple of weeks to discuss all sorts. Mainly horses, occasionally our love lives, and then swiftly back to horses!! Martin is often touring the backwaters of continental Europe in search of a good bet on the horses. Top fella.
What follows is a horse by horse preview of the big race, a brief chat on the under-card and some info on betting over there. He has even thrown in some tourist advice! (non racing related)
4 miles, 2 1/2 furlongs and 31, yes 31, varying obstacles. It promises to be a spectacle once more.
I have stolen the following from Wiki…
Velká pardubická is a famous cross-country steeplechase run in Pardubice, Czech Republic since 1874. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in October. The length of the steeplechase is 6.9 km, with 31 obstacles. It usually takes 9–10 minutes to finish the course. The fastest time recorded was 8 minutes and 58.99 seconds by Sixteen in 2008 and the slowest was over 13 minutes. Horses starting in the race must be at least 6 years old (the rules changed in 2009, previously the minimum age was 7 years) and Czech horses must qualify by finishing at least one of four qualifying races during the season.
I’ll now let Martin guide you through the runners and riders…
Ter Mill (11yo Gelding)
Running in this fourth renewal of this race and completed for the first time when finishing a distant sixth in the 2016 renewal. Finished well beaten in the first qualifier for this race in May and could finish only third in a Class 2 cross-country contest here last time out. Others look more likely winners of this.
Nikas (12yo Gelding)
Finished runner-up in his first attempt at this race in 2013 and was also passed the post first in 2015 but was subsequently disqualified due to a failed drugs test. Failed to complete last year and not the force he once was having finished behind a number of these in the qualification races this year.
Pareto (10yo Gelding)
Eighth in last years renewal is the best he’s managed from three attempts at this contest and put in his best effort so far this year when runner-up in a valuable contest at Wroclaw (Poland) last time out. Had today’s rival Delight My Fire in front of him on that occasion and was one of a number of casualties in the prestigious Eva Palyzova Memorial at Lysa prior to that.
No Time To Lose (8yo Gelding)
Making his first appearance in this contest having taken last year’s renewal of the Cena Vltavy that features on the undercard of today’s contest. Had just two starts this year and put in bold shows when finishing runner-up in two qualification races for this in May and August respectively. Hails from Velka legend Josef Vana’s stable and jockey Jan Kratochvil finished runner-up in this race last year.
Ange Guardian (9yo Gelding)
Really stepped up in the last two years and ended last year by finishing runner-up to Charme Look in this contest. Usually ridden with restraint as was the case in 2017 he put a mishap when an odds-on favourite for Lysa’s Eva Palyzova Memorial cross-country contest behind him when finishing seventh to old nemesis Charme Look in the third qualification race for this in August. This has been his target all year and he is likely to leave that form behind him with Josef Vana jnr looking for his first win in the race.
Val De Guye (8yo Gelding)
Maiden after ten starts and well beaten in the June qualifier for this contest. Failed to complete in a weak renewal of the final qualifier last month. Trainer Stanislav Kovář’s sole victory this season came in a chase at Brno back in April and it’s hard to see him troubling the principles.
Songe D’Estruval (11yo Gelding)
The first of three French raiders in the race, two of whom represent leading trainer Guillaume Macaire’s first runners in this race since 2001. Winner of 14 of his 26 career starts including a cross-country contest at Vichy just under three weeks ago. Stays 3m2f and one to note with useful amateur rider Colm McCormack having his first ride in the race and indeed in the Czech Republic today.
Kasim (12yo Gelding)
Likeable veteran but had just three starts since winning the first qualification race for this last year. Has finished fourth once and fifth twice in three attempts at this but missed out last year. Ran well to finish fourth in the first qualification race back in May but has been beaten in a Class 2 contest since and a place is likely the best he can hope for.
Templar (10yo Gelding)
Winner of the second qualification race in 2016 he finished a well held seventh in the big one later in the season. Had just the one start this season when finishing sixth in the third qualification race in August and others look more likely winners of this.
Bridgeur (6yo Gelding)
The youngest horse in the field and a maiden after 18 starts in total. Career best effort when finishing runner-up in a weak renewal of the fourth qualification race here last month. Husband and wife partnership Jaroslav Myska and Stepanka Myskova have had plenty of success with their runners in France this year and this horse is likely to be better further down the line.
Zarif (10yo Gelding)
Placed in this race for the last two years finishing runner-up in 2015 and third last year. Successful first time out this season in the first qualification race for this and ran well when finishing fourth here in August. Is usually ridden with restraint and regular jockey Josef Bartos takes the ride once more.
Virtus D’Estruval (8yo Gelding)
Successful nine times from his 23 starts in France he is the pick of jockey Jan Faltjesek who has won this race in four of the last five years. Finished third in a valuable Listed cross-country race over 3m6f at Craon last time out and has also won at Vichy and Fontainebleau this year. Making his first appearance in this race and looks likely to be involved in the finish if taking to the course.
Universe Of Gracie (12yo Gelding)
Likeable veteran and contesting his fourth renewal of this. Finished fourth and third in 2014 and 2015 respectively but failed to complete last year. All four starts this year have come at this track including when winning a Class 2 cross-country event last time out. Not the force of old but may run well at a big price.
Eldorado (10yo Gelding)
Winner of a Class 3 race here back in 2014 but two victories since have both been in a grade below that. Career best effort to finish fifth in May’s qualifying race here but has plenty to find with the principals on that running and is likely to start a big price for this.
Delight My Fire (7yo Mare)
The only mare in the contest and still going well when falling at Cheltenham last December. Has since run some good races in Italy and Poland including when winning a valuable race at Wroclaw last time out. Had today’s rival Pareto behind on that occasion and won the big race on the undercard the Cena Labe under Swedish jockey Niklas Loven last year.
Maugli (11yo Gelding)
Qualified for this race by finishing seventh in the first qualification race here in May. Has since won a Class 3 contest at Netolice though that is some way below what is needed to win this. Expect a huge cheer if Martin Liska, who earlier this year rode his 50th winner after more 20 years of race riding can ride this fellow to an unexpected success.
Power Zar (8yo Gelding)
Winner of the final qualification race for this last month but in truth that was a very weak renewal and he had failed to complete here on his first start of the season the previous month. Bulgarian jockey Sertash Ferhanov sits prominently in the jump jockeys standings for this season but trainer Josef Vana appears to have better chances of landing this.
Sixtyseven (8yo Gelding)
Completed in two of his three starts in the qualification races this season including when fourth in the final one last month. Have to go back well over two years to find his most recent success and looks unlikely to be adding to his tally today.
Charme Look (10yo Gelding)
Successful in this race last year and put a fall in the first qualification race behind him when winning the third such contest in August. Has a good wins to runs record having won nine of his 14 starts in cross-country races and usually front runs. Slight concern that he is overlooked by leading jockey Jan Faltjesek but he has a good replacement in the shape of Marek Stromsky who was disqualified from first place in this race in 2015.
Urgent De Gregaine (9yo Gelding)
Had some decent form over fences in France including when finishing fourth at Auteuil in September last year. Stepped up markedly on previous cross-country efforts when winning at Cheltenham at the end of January and is an interesting runner for one of France’s leading jumps trainers Emmanuel Clayeux with British jockey Felix de Giles taking the mount.
I am siding with Ange Guardian who has been lined up for this race all year and is currently around the 9/1 mark with the local bookmakers. Josef Vana has his usual strong hand again this year and with his son in the saddle the selection can go one better than when winning last year, with last years winner Charme Look and French raider Virtus D’Estruval taken to fight it out for second. Despite Jan Faltjesek’s choice, preference is for Charme Look, who has a good record around here while of those currently featuring at bigger prices in the market the veteran Universe Of Gracie may make the frame for a third time.
Watch out for… The Taxis
The most famous fence on the course, The Taxis, comes up as fence four following a right hand turn in front of the grandstand. The fence itself is most famous for the huge drop on the landing side and is taken roughly in line with the winning post before the field head out to the Irish Bank and then out around the back of the trees for the first time.
The course has been altered on a number of occasions over the years with the most recent coming in 1998 as a result of the new grandstand being built. On this occasion the amendment resulted in the runners racing the opposite way down the home straight with the final turn now being right-handed rather than left.
On the undercard of Sunday’s race Felix de Giles rides useful French cross-country horse Art And Co in the Cena Labe and he would have a live chance of taking that particular contest, while the most likely winner on the card is Player in the opener. Marcel Novak’s, (who tops the jockeys championship) mount has won twice here this season and is the one proven stayer in the race. If there’s a doubt surrounding him it’s over the way he travels in his races in as much as he has come off the bridle at a relatively early stage on more than one occasion but has plenty in hand on figures and if there’s a future Velka horse in the race restricted to five-year-old’s then he is it.
In the opening race on the Saturday Mary Yeats, unsurprisingly given her name a daughter of Yeats, looks the most likely winner of the sole Flat race over the two day meeting – assuming the winning hurdler stays 2m on her first attempt at the trip on the Flat.
Leading amateur rider Jindrich Fabris takes the ride in a race in which Katerina Talabova has her first ride on board Stager. Other jockeys to note in the race are Tereza Grabaviciova (Zelda) and Michal Miksovsky (Wego Dancing) who have both ridden winners this year.
Ex-pat Robin Healy has a very good English language Czech Racing website at http://www.dostihovy-svet.cz/en and his post from 2nd October 2017 details the days proceedings and ways of getting to and from Pardubice racecourse in detail.
My personal recommendation would be to stay in Prague and take one of the trains mentioned above to the course. If attending on the Saturday it is usually a lot less busy and there are plenty of food stands on display.
When it comes to betting most punters will be playing “vitez” or “win” to you and I but there are also fixed odds prices offered to finish in the first 2, 3, 4 or 5. Be warned that the on course firm Betino have a monopoly and as such the percentages aren’t the best. Forecasts and Tricasts are paid out on a Tote system so dividends aren’t known until after the race, watch out for the rollovers when such bets aren’t won on a race. Don’t worry too much about not speaking Czech as a number of those taking the bets will speak English and check the various screens for the current odds on your selection.
What to do while in Prague…
If staying in Prague in the days after the big race or indeed if over before then I can recommend the Museum Of Communism situated near Wenceslas Square as a good place to visit, also Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral which is fairly central is also recommended. Prague generally is cosmopolitan and it’s fair to say the city has fully embraced capitalism with Tesco, McDonalds, Marks & Spencer, TGI Friday’s, KFC etc. all featuring in various parts of the city. First time visitors shouldn’t be short of things to do and places to eat and I can heartily recommend the local delicacy trdelnik (pastry done on a spit) though have to say the on course version likely to be available at Pardubice is exceptional.
For those more sport minded then Sparta Prague ice hockey team are playing at home on Tuesday evening. Face off is at 18:30 and the nearest metro station is Ceskomoravska and the home team generally do well, making the final of ice hockey’s equivalent of the Champions League last season. Beer and sausages are generally the order of the day at Czech ice hockey matches and for anyone travelling with children it’s a nice family atmosphere in the seated areas on either side of the rink.
If anyone sees a chap in a big blue jacket speaking English feel free to say hi. If Veronica Rezacova wins on her mount I’ll get them a drink in!
That’s a wrap as they say. Thanks to Martin for that brilliant read. I promised him £x, + dinner and a beer, for penning that. I had better find a winner or two 🙂
I hope you enjoyed reading through that as much as I did.
How to watch the race…
Well I am not sure if RUK will be showing it on Sunday, possibly. The race is due off 3.40 UK time, but it rarely goes off on time. It is the last race on a card that starts at 10.30!
Martin says this link HERE>>> may work.
This site here may be worth exploring if you wish to have a bet on the race… HERE>>>
(V is the win price, 1-2 (top two), etc)
With any luck this piece helps you enjoy the spectacle whether betting, watching, or indeed visiting the track!