Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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127th Velka Pardubicka, 8 October 2017

(Exchange rate £1 = 27 CZK)

It was our fourth trip to Czech Republic’s most famous race, although the eighth trip in total to Prague. Our previous big race visits were in three consecutive years: 2000-2002.

The race takes place in Pardubice, a city 120km from Prague. Despite cheaper beer in the host city (you’ll pay about 30, CZK for 0.5l rather than 45-65, CZK in Prague) I’d strongly recommend accommodation in the capital as Pardubice is a rather dull uninteresting place. We were staying at the centrally located Hotel Hastal, where we’d stayed previously during our last visit to the city back in 2010, the year of the ash cloud. That stay was the conclusion of a trip by rail around the country and the unusual weather conditions resulted in three extra nights in the city courtesy of our insurance companies. 

On the first night in Prague we played the typical tourists - a four-course dinner in Café Mozart which boasts views of the Astronomical Clock. The meal was accompanied by a string quartet in traditional costume. Expensive by Prague standards at 1,190 CZK each, however the food was really good:

 

  

  String quartet doing their stuff


Third course – filet mignon




Café Mozart is the yellow building at the top right of this picture


On Saturday, we took a day trip by train to Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  If you ever go there be sure to visit St. Barbara’s church:


St. Barbara church, Kutna Hora



I have recommendations regarding train travel in the Czech Republic:

1.Travel first class, it’s only marginally more expensive.

2. Buy your tickets/seats online, it’s cheaper and easier than at the train station.  

3. Use www.cd.cz, the official Czech site. You can print your tickets in advance. Other firms offer tickets online but tend to be more expensive.

4. Carry photo ID.

Our first-class return tickets to Pardubice cost around 400, CZK each. Trains are frequent. We left Prague 9:30am on Sunday hoping to catch the opening ceremony at 11:00am. Courtesy buses were available at Pardubice station followed by a short walk to the track.

 

 


The “boys” enjoying their first-class rail travel



Entrance was 190, CZK with racecards @ 120, CZK.

 Approaching the track on foot, grandstands in the distance


As we arrived they were blessing the track, “Please God do not let us all fall down, amen.”, was the English snippet I heard.  It was an eight-race card culminating in the feature race and of course we knew nothing about the first seven races.

 

Runners in the sixth race jump the last, one of the smaller fences


As for punting we only bet on the big one. On-course betting is a computer-based monopoly which at first glance resembles a tote system. But it’s not, you take fixed odds albeit in a massively over-round book. For example, the favourite was evens on-track and 3/1 in the UK.

We decided to play the two French runners as they looked reasonable value against the home hopes. One of these was unseated in an early pile-up (God obviously not watching). Our main selection, Cheltenham Trials Day winner Urgent De Gregaine, was well clear with one to jump (noticed 1.13 betfair) but was caught on the run-in by No Time To Lose. Here is one of my betting slips:


You can see from this slip I had a "monkey" @ 12/1 whereas Urgent De Gregaine was returned 14/1 (in the UK)


 By the time the big race was run (16:40 CET) it had rained a lot and horses were finishing very tired after their 4m 2.5f journey.


Jan Kratochvil celebrates his victory on No Time To Lose


At the station there was time for an excellent pint of Gambrinus (29, CZK) in a grotty bar before returning to Prague. Back in the capital we ended up in Pipa Beer Story which has eight draft beers on tap:


Note five cannabis lager (!) and eight plain porter from Dublin!



Delicious beer snacks to accompany the eight drinks on offer

 

 


Me with a fellow racegoer at Pardubice...


October 2017