The first Tuesday in November is very popular in Australia for reasons to obvious to state, but the second Sunday in October is also sacrosanct for those living this side of downtown Prague.
For the second Sunday of October is when they run the famous and rather gruelling Velká pardubická steeplechase in Pardubice and have done so for nearly as long as the Melbourne Cup, kicking off in 1874.
(The race was cancelled a few times – most recently in 1968 and from 1938 to 1945 due to the fact the country had been invaded by Germans – and in 1909 there was no winner … maybe they all fell, or just got tired?)
The length of the Velká pardubická is 6900m, has 31 jumps and takes around 9-10 minutes to complete (the race record is 8 minutes, 58.99 seconds which was set two years ago). The slowest time was over 13 minutes.
And while you wouldn’t exactly be sending around a 2YO in a race like that anyway, to compete in the Velká pardubická your horse must be at least a 6YO.
The race has been taken out the last two years by Timuen which, while considered quite a feat in Melbourne Cup terms, is nevertheless a regular occurrence in the Velká pardubická with many multiple winners.
Foremost among them though is Železník who won four out of five years during the 80s and was ridden by jockey/trainer Josef Váňa.
Something of a legend in his homeland, Josef Váňa was on board Timuen again this year, taking out his seventh Velká pardubická at the ripe age of 57.
According to Josef he’s “broken every bone in his body” and was at one time ‘clinically dead’ after falling in Germany, only to hop back on two months later.
One wonders if he is regarded in his country as a bounced Czech?