The second Sunday in October is traditionally Velka Pardubicka day, and this year is no exception. 19 horses will be lining up at the start of the most famous race in the Czech Republic, including talented representatives of the next generation and also some long-term members of our crosscountry steeplechasing elite – among them three past winners of the Velka Pardubicka. There will be no runners in this year’s race from the horseracing superpowers, but four of the declared runners are trained in Slovakia.
Three of the runners in the 131st Velka Pardubicka with Slavia Insurance, under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture (Listed, 6900 metres), are trained by Josef Váňa senior. No Time To Lose (Velek) has shown particularly good form this year. The winner of the Velka Pardubicka in 2017 appeared last year to be past his best, and when he fell at the Taxis it seemed like the end of his distinguished career. However, he remained in training and he won this year’s May qualification race for the VP comfortably. This race had the strongest field of the four qualification races at Pardubice. A month ago, No Time To Lose confirmed his good form in the run-up to the highpoint of our season by beating the best of our top two-mile crosscountry chasers.
No Time To Lose’s stablemate Theophilos is another past winner of the Velka Pardubicka. He won the race two years ago. Last year, his regular jockey Josef Bartoš was not able to ride him because of an injury, and Theophilos finished back in 9th place. This year, Bartoš is fit again and in good form. After winning this year’s top steeplechases in Poland and in Italy, he is poised to achieve a unique hattrick of victories. Josef Váňa’s team is completed by Mahé King (Faltejsek). As a 6-y-o, he is the youngest runner in the field. In the September qualification race, he finished in 3rd place, not far behind second-placed Theophilos.
The most recent winner of the Velka Pardubicka is Hegnus (Matuský). Trained by Radek Holčák, he has been a member of the elite for many years, but a series of injuries has often held him back. He was a 12-y-o before he achieved his win in the big race. This year, his only run has been in the June qualification race, in which he finished 5th. A year ago, there were 3 horses that finished not far behind him. Second place went to Player (Novák), trained by Lenka Kvapilová, just a head in front of Vandual (Julliot), trained in Slovakia by Marián Štangel. Talent (Složil), trained by Hana Kabelková, finished half a length further back in 4th place.
Apart from Vandual, which will be running in the Velka Pardubicka for the 4th time, there will be 3 other runners from neighbouring Slovakia. The best of them appears to be Kaiserwalzer, trained by Jaroslav Brečka, which won the September qualification race. He will be ridden for the first time by Patrick Mullins, son of multiple champion Irish trainer over fences, Willie Mullins, trainer of stars such as Douvan, Min and Un de Sceaux. Jaroslav Brečka himself will be on Star, which has until now done best running in classical steeplechases on grass tracks. On paper, the weakest of the Slovak-trained horses is Paris Eiffel (Cagáň).
The most promising representatives of the younger generation are two rivals from the Labe Stakes on last year’s VP day, in which Evžen (Myška) beat Lombargini (Odložil) by half a length. Each of these two has won one of this year’s qualification races. Evžen, trained by Štěpánka Myšková, won the June qualification race comfortably and will be aiming on Sunday for his 4th win at the Velka Pardubicka meeting, having also won the Czech Steeplechase Association Stakes and the Vltava Stakes in past years. Lombargini, trained by Stanislav Popelka, has in recent years lost his earlier reputation as an unreliable jumper, and by winning the August qualification race he established himself among the contenders for the Velka Pardubicka.
Lombargini’s stablemate Stretton (Kocman) has already taken 2nd place and 3rd place in the great race. Despite his 3rd place in this year’s June qualification race, however, he does not seem to be in good enough form to go on to win the VP. Owner Nýznerov has not only Player and Stretton in the race, but also Sztorm (Ferhanov), which finished down the field in VP 2019, but did very well to finish 2nd in the May qualification race this year. 3rd-placed Casper (Vyhnálek) finished not far behind Sztorm in this race. Casper, trained by Dalibor Török, will be trying to improve on his 6th place in VP 2020.
Mr Spex (Kratochvíl) has twice finished 7th in qualifcation races this year, and will be running in his first Velka, and Vanesse (Duchene) will be running in her first-ever race at Pardubice. Trained by Pavel Vítek, this is the only mare in the race, and she has run all her previous races in France. She has not done much there this year, but last year she won a crosscountry race at Craon. Any success for Dulcar de Sivola (Tůma) would be a surprise, as he took only 9th place and 11th place in his earlier runs in the Velka Pardubicka. The biggest outsider of all is Beau Rochelais (Čmiel), which finished far behind all the others in the September qualification race.
There are other attractive races every year on the Velka Pardubicka day programme, and all but one of the races on Sunday is at Category I level or higher. Some of the races have attracted a rather small field, but there are plenty of interesting names among the runners. Please note that the first race is at 10.30, one hour earlier than is customary. If you cannot get to the racecourse in person, the whole race day will be shown, as usual, on Czech television (Česká televize).