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Image: Pardubice Jockey Club

Not even COVID can dampen the spectacle of European cross-country steeplechasing with the 130th Velka Pardubicka to be run on Sunday 11 October at Pardubice, in the Czech Republic.

Often called the Czech Grand National, the ‘Pardubicka’ consists of 31 fences with such names as the Irish Bank, English Jump, Big Water Jump, with the Great Taxis Ditch being the symbol of the race.

Absent this year are the British raiders, leaving a field of 18 starters, but can champion trainer Josef Vana make it back-to-back victories with his 10yo race favourite Theophilos for a record 12 victories.

In being the ‘worlds’ greatest race’ Josef Vana also has three additional entries, having previously won eight times as a jockey, and in 2009, 2010 and 2011 on Tiumen which he also trained.

Being Race 10 at 4.40pm, and taking over 9 minutes to run, the Velka Pardubicka of 6900m is for 6yo’s and older weighted on 70 kg with mares 68kg, and last year’s winner is exempted from qualification.

All starters must have passed at least one of the four qualifying races in 2020 at the Pardubice racecourse, Crystal Cup races or steeplechase or steeplechase cross-country.

In addition, there are cross country races of at least 4800 meters in Ireland, England, France and Italy held from 15 October 2019 that are also qualifying events.

All rider’s must have finished in 10 obstacle races in their career and in 2020 must completed at least one steeplechase and finished in one Velká Pardubická qualifying race.

The feast of all-day racing begins at 10.30am with the Golden Buckle Hurdle of 3200m for 3yo’s with eight runners and is followed by the Crystal Cup Hurdle over 3400m for 4yo’s having 11 starters.

Race 3 at 11.30am is the Cena Laty Brandisove Steeplechase, a 4200m cross-country for 6yo+ having eight starters, with by the Sliver Trophy Steeplechase of 4400m for 5yo+ with seven runners.

Nine runners start in the Cena Casch Steeplechase cross-country of 4200m for 4yo’s, followed by the Poplera Memorial Steeplechase cross-country of 3300m for 5yo+ on 70kg having eight starters

At 2.55pm is Race 7 the Chladek Tintera Steeplechase cross country of 5200m with 12 runners, followed by the President Pardubice Steeplechase cross-country with 13 runners over 4500m, and the BICZ Cup Steeplechase of 4600m with 17 starters.

In the Czech flat season closing, can the Czech Derby winner Opasan make it an unbeaten year in also winning the 75th Czech St Leger of 2800m at the Prague-Velka Chuchle Racecourse on 25 October.

In being the first classic success for Slovakian trainer Jozef Chodur in winning the 100th Czech Derby of 2400m, Opasan won twice earlier at 2000m and 2200m, and was a 1800m winner at two-years.

Sired by Kildangan Stud’s French Navy, the Irish bred Opasan is from the good producing unraced Groom Dancer mare Ouija’s Sister, and is a graduate of the Tattersalls 2018 December Yearling Sale.

One cannot leave Czechia without attending the Velka Slusovicka Steeplechase flat and jumping meeting on Wednesday 28 October at Slusovic, on the Slovakian boarder.

An on-course steeplechase of 5200m for 5yo+ the Velka Slusovicka is supported by five flat races highlighted by a 3200m distance Flat race for 3yo’s weighted on 58kg.

In addition, there is a1600m Flat race with 2yo’s weighted 51kg, 3yo’s on 60.5kg and 4yo+ with 61kg, a 1800m Flat Handicap for non-winning 2yo’s and a 3yo fillies and mares’ Flat event over 1600m.

The 1800 Handicap for 3yo+ concludes the flat racing, with the card also having a Wicker Hurdle of 3200m for 3yo’s, a 3200m Steeplechase for 4yo+ and a Steeplechase for 4yo+ run over 4,200 meters.

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