By tradition, the second Sunday in October belongs to the Velka Padubicka, and this year is no exception. Fifteen horses will go down to the start of our greatest race, including last year’s winner, Talent. He is the current favourite, but according to the odds offered by Tipsport, the high point of our crosscountry steeplechase season is a very open race.
Talent’s (Složil) dress rehearsal for the 132nd running of the Velka Pardubicka with Slavia Insurance (Listed, 6900 metres) was unsuccessful. When he attempted to avoid other horses that were making mistakes at the Popkovice Turn, he unseated his rider Pavel Složil. Neverthless, Hana Kabelková’s horse had already shown his quality this year when he won the June qualification race. The most recent winner of the Velka Pardubicka to defend her title was the outstanding Orphee Des Blins, which won the race for the third time in 2014.
The list of runners for the Velka Pardubicka also includes the name of No Time To Lose (Velek). Trained by Josef Váňa senior, this horse won the big race five years ago, but at the age of 13 he is the oldest runner in the field. Nevertheless, he is still in contention. In the May qualification race, he finished third behind Del Rey and Theophilos, neither of which, unfortunately, will be running, due to injury. Josef Váňa senior has also prepared Dusigrosz (Stromský) for the race. This horse spent a long time running successfully over hurdles and in classical steeplechases. He finished second in this year‘s September qualification race.
Josef Váňa junior also has a runner in the field. His Brunch Royal will be running at Pardubice for the first time, but he has experience with difficult crosscountry races in France, and two weeks before the Velka he won the race at Merano in the Crystal Cup international series of crosscountry steeplechases. Brunch Royal will be ridden by triple winner of the Velka Pardubicka Josef Bartoš, who recently also won the Gran Premio at Merano for the fourth time in a row on L’Estran.
The trainer with the biggest number of runners in the Velka Pardubicka is Stanislav Popelka. This will be the first run in the race for Imphal (Myška), the winner of the September qualification race. Lombargini (Odložil) finished third in that race. He made his debut in the Velka last year, but did not get beyond the French Fence. Stretton (Garner), on the other hand, has plenty of experience in the Velka, and has finished second and third in the race. In both cases, he was ridden by English jockey Thomas Garner, who will be riding him again after a break of three years.
The biggest field of runners in this year’s series of qualification races was in August, when the winner was Player (Novák), trained by Lenka Kvapilová. Two years ago, Player finished second in the Velka Pardubicka, but last year he fell at the Taxis. Third place in the Velka Pardubicka in 2019 went to Chicname de Cotte (Solignac), trained by Pavel Vítek. After that, he suffered fitness problems for a long time, and it seemed as if he would never get back to his old form, but in the August qualification race he was beaten by Player only in a tight finish.
On that occasion, a close third place went to Argano (Liška), which has made considerable progress this year. He is a newcomer to the Velka Pardubicka, but until now longer distances seem to have suited him. He will be ridden by his trainer Martin Liška. Fourth place in the August qalification race went to Mr Spex (Matuský). He was to have been ridden by Jan Kratochvíl, but an injury suffered at Merano has put him out of action, and he will be replaced by Lukáš Matuský, the winning jockey in the Velka Pardubicka in 2020. Trainer Luboš Urbánek has great ambitions for Mr Spex, based on his third place in last year’s Velka Pardubicka. Sacamiro (Kocman) was beaten into sixth place in the August qualification race, but finished within seven lengths of the winner. In the June qualification race, Sacamiro was beaten only by Talent.
The two challengers that are trained outside the Czech Republic are from Slovakia, and they both know Pardubice well. They are both trained by Jaroslav Brečka, who at the age of 60 will be riding Star. Last year, they finished in sixth place in the Velka, despite an equipment failure. On that occasion, Kaiserwalzer’s (Mullins) race came to an end at the Taxis, but he had previously won the September qualification race. He will again be ridden by Irish jockey Patrick Mullins, who holds an amateur rider’s licence but has won several Group 1 races in Ireland and England, on top horses including Douvan, Min and Faugheen. The role of the biggest outsider will be taken by Dulcar de Sivola (Borč), which has already got round the Velka Pardubicka course three times, but never in higher than 9th place.
Every year, the other races on Velka Pardubicka day are attractive and interesting. On the Sunday afternoon, there will be six other races, all except one of which are at Category I level or higher. Some of the fields are a bit smaller than had been hoped. However, each of the races has at least six declared runners, and a number of Czech stars and future stars will feature in them.
Please note that the first race is 11.30 a.m., and the high point of the programme starts at 4 p.m. If you cannot get to the racecourse in person, Czech Television (Česká televize) will as usual be providing a direct live transmission of the entire day’s racing.