The Velka Pardubicka, Czech Republic’s answer to the Grand National. A refreshing world away from the familiarity of the UK & Irish races we know so well. That being said, some things remain consistent with horse racing wherever you go. The passion, history, love for the sport and a bit of merry fun along the way can be felt in the atmosphere all around the racecourse.
Racing Breaks guests were lucky enough to experience this famous cross-country steeplechase run high up in one of the many boxes in the grandstand. Upon first entrance, we were greeted with an array of food and beverages to enjoy. But we weren’t here to indulge, rather to experience this historic spectacle which dates back to 1874.
If you haven’t been to a cross-country steeplechase run before you may be baffled like I, and many of the guests were. There doesn’t seem to be any order to the race, almost like the rest follows the leader. Nonetheless, the 8 races throughout the day were thoroughly enjoyable. Surprisingly, people's Czech Republic horse racing knowledge was lacking somewhat. It was one of those days where you simply go off either form, odds or names of the horse’s. Despite adopting this unorthodox tactic, the roar to cheer the horses home was consistent from guests in the box.
The final race of the day was the big one. If you’re unfamiliar with this race it might be worth watching a running on YouTube. However, if you haven’t got time let me explain what an astonishingly crazy race this actually is. The length of the steeplechase is 6.9km and usually takes 9–10 minutes to finish the course. The fastest time recorded was 8 minutes and 56.01 seconds by Ribelino in 2015 and the slowest was over 13 minutes. If you think that’s not mad enough, horses and jockeys alike have to contend with 31 hurdles.
It would have appeared the winner of the race was going to be Urgent De Gregaine. Trained in France by Emmanuel Clayeux, this horse had led his rivals a merry dance for much of the race. Tackling large fences and running through ploughed fields, Urgent De Gregaine looked like he only needed to clear the final 2 hurdles to claim victory, such was his lead. However, deep inside the final furlong he felt the full strain of the 6.9km mudded track, and No Time To Lose, ridden by Jan Kratochvil and trained by the legend of the race, Josef Vana, came with a late stretch to claim victory.
A staggeringly fantastic race caped an all round fantastic experience at a racecourse which I hope to attend in the not too distant future. If you’re looking to experience racing out of the normality of the UK and Irish racecourses I couldn’t recommend a race to attend more than the Velka Pardubicka.
And the racing is only half the reason we’d recommend this experience! The other half is “Prague”, one of the most stunning and fun cities in the world. With something for absolutely everyone Prague boosts incredible architecture, Museums and if you’re there on a Stag or Hen do there plenty to keep you occupied into the small hours!
This is certainly one to tick off the bucket list, so just find an excuse and book your 2018 package with Racing Breaks quickly!