Saturday, 19 July 2014

Lysa Nad Labem Racecourse (Czech Republic)

Saturday July 5th 2014


When we fix a holiday you can be pretty sure that I will be on to the internet investigating the possibilities of fitting in a race meeting somewhere. Frustratingly our schedule taking in Prague, Vienna and Budapest just missed the Czech and Magyar Derbys, but the Czech racing scene shows something most weekends and Lysa Nad Labem held a mixed meeting during our Prague leg.

The racecourse is some 35km out from the centre of Prague just outside the small town from which it takes its name. The town is served by two trains an hour, one from the main Prague station Praha Hlavni nadrazi and one from Praha Masarykovo nadrazi. The latter station is a bit of a dump, but Lysa Nad Labem is served from here by rather swish CityElefant double decker trains. The fare is about the equivalent of £3 return which is dirt cheap compared with the UK.

Transport from the station at Lysa Nad Labem isn’t quite so straight forward and if you are thinking of visiting then it might be worth doing a bit of spade work in advance.  There’s a big advert in the street for ‘Horse Racing’, but no obvious means of travelling to the track and it doesn’t seem a place taxis wait for fares. There are very few buses in the town and nothing direct to the course. I couldn’t get the taxi number to work on my phone, and it was difficult to find English speakers amongst the locals, though one guy in a bar did understand enough to arrange a taxi. He apologised for his poor English, but it was a darned sight better than my Czech! The word ‘zavodiste’ (racecourse) will come in handy. Taxi turned up 10 minutes later and we were at the course half an hour before the 1pm start. Fare was 150Kc which is about £4.50, which is quite expensive but we were just glad to get there. If you get a taxi in the Czech Republic, and Prague in particular, make sure the fare is agreed before leaving. For a trip from our hotel to the station we were quoted prices varying between 117Kc (just over £3) to 500Kc (£14)!

We arranged for the taxi driver to return at 5 o’clock. I think we made it clear enough, but he didn’t turn up and we had to walk back. The locals don’t seem to do talking and nobody even asked about our plight as we waited for the taxi. Eventually we walked back and it is about 2 miles if you follow the footpaths which run alongside the railway. A reasonable option if you are fit and allow the time.

Admission was 100Kc (about £2.75) and an excellent full colour glossy programme is 60Kc (£1.70). The programme is not difficult to follow as form summaries are pretty much the same across the racing world and a decent course map is particularly helpful for the steeplechases.

Details of Czech racing and meeting schedule can be found at the Czech Jockey Club website which translates reasonably well. The course website can be found at .

The course is set in a very pleasant forest area and is a mix between Cartmel, Fontwell and the cross-country bit at Cheltenham, holding a mix of jumps and flat with races for unregistered horses and ponies slotted in the card. The main course is around 7 furlongs per circuit, so very tight, a steeplechase course inside the flat track with a cross-country course cutting across the middle. The going was very firm, no obvious signs of watering, and jumping on that surface would have raised eyebrows in the UK. There appears to be a trotting track running inside the main steeplechase track.

Note the obstacle in the second picture, which is a quaintly named ‘wickerwork obstacle’ which is brush hurdle with plastic brush set on top of a wooden frame. The steeplechase fences are natural hedges with cross-country including a double fence in front of the stands, a bank and a water jump.

Spectator facilities are at the basic end of the scale. The two stands, one just past the finish and one on the bend away from the finish, are fairly basic affairs which are essentially planks on raised scaffolding. There are permanent buildings for officials, jockeys changing and betting booths under the stand as well as wooden buildings for refreshments. There is a fair bit of seating provided behind the stands for eating and drinking. A good range of soft drinks and beers, though the food seemed to consist of a selection of sausages with different types of bread, though it must be said the ones we tried were really tasty. Sign language required to order food as English seems a no go!

Betting facilities are via the Betino booths at the rear of the stands. The over-round seems very big so there’s not much room for making money, but palce bettors will be happy as there were markets for 1st and 2nd, 1st to 3rd, 1st to 4th and 1st to 5th in all races.

The paddock area is easily accessible some way past the winning post. In terms of competing horses there does seem to be a variation in fitness reflecting the range of quite professional stables to one horse amateurs that are competing. That said the most horses are well turned out and the steeplechasers for the feature were a decent bunch. Field sizes were good, mostly double figures and some races over-subscribed.

Those involved in Czech racing must be in it for love of the game as the prize money levels are low measured by our own standards. The prizepot for the feature chase was 120000Kc, which is around £3,400, while the Category 5 closing event had a total pot of 15,000Kc (£420).

13.00 3200m (2m) Hurdle Race (Category 4)

The card opened with the single hurdle race for largely inexperienced jumpers. There are five hurdles per circuit, 10 jumped in this contest with the one just before the finish line removed on the final circuit. The runners jump the hurdle in front of the stands before the race as a trial hurdle.
My paddock observations picked out two here and they filled the first two places. French-bred SUNSHINE OF GRACIE was well in charge after two out and ran on to an easy victory under Jakub Kocman, a name familiar to some in the UK. The winner is only four and probably has ability to become a chaser.
BRISK MOOS(GB) sweated profusely before the race, though it should be pointed out that the weather was hot and sticky. This one kept on for second place having raced prominently.
BLACKANDGREEN raced in a single cheekpiece on the right-hand side which is a new one on me. He led to the eighth before fading quickly.
JAZZ BARON finished lame and was walked back to stables, though really looking in need of a horse ambulance.

13:30 2200m (1m 3f) 3yo Maiden Race (Category 4)

WELL RISK caused my hilarity before the race, getting loose and evading attempts to capture him for some while. When eventually cornered he was withdrawn and led back to the stable block in disgrace!

Polish-bred TURDUS raced prominently, and seemed likely to outstay the remainder from the home turn, only to be headed close home by persistent challenger RABBIT EMPEROR, an Irish-bred half-sister to a fair middle distance performer in the UK in Aldwick Bay. POLONAISE was held in the latter stages back in third.

14:00 3500m (2m 1½f) Steeplechase (Category 4)

A low grade steeplechase contest run principally on the main steeplechase course with an outer cross-country loop…, at least my scribbled notes seem to suggest that! There are helpful maps posted on the wall outside the officials’ room by the finish.

The fences are in the main natural hedges which are brushed through rather than the more solid birch that we are used to. The run-in on the chase course is around three furlongs, the final fence being taken on the final bend with the runners then directed on to the flat course for the finish. Not quite a Cartmel run-in but still a fair gallop after the last.

A decent battle from the last, GOLD DANCER clear from the twelfth but worn down close home by AMERICKY SEN.
HOLLYBEAR led to the tenth but his jockey battled against wonky steering and his mount quickly gave way once headed.

14:15 400m Pony Race

I didn’t see this one as my wife who had been sat relaxing with a drink decided it was time to recce the course! Riders were 10 to 13 and all female and, although I can’t understand the detail, the section of the programme covering this race suggests there is a well organised series of pony races, the Pony Ligy 2014 sponsored by

14:30 1700m (1m 1½f) Stakes (Category 4)

A competitive event, a beautifully judged ride by the distinctly capable Jan Verner seeing seven-year-old KIND GIRL put her head in front in the closing stages. She looked the best in the paddock. In behind it was pretty tight with Irish-bred ECHO RULES, out of a mare who won 4 times at middle distances on UK all-weather, taking second and blinkered LATRIB in third.

The runners leave the stalls. Visenya (blue, centre) breaks well along with Ibar from stall 1 and Quirly in the light blue. Lakar(black & white on the far left) rears on leaving the stalls, while the winner is just out of the picture on the left.

I stood by the start for this contest and woman starter took no nonsense from anyone. Plenty of shouting and jockeys did as they were told.

14:30 1700m (1m 1½f) Stakes (Category 3)

Same start but up a grade from the previous race and run two and half seconds faster. There was a false start as it appeared one of the runners forced the gate. The recall flagman did a fine job and stayed at his post until the runners were almost upon him.
Polish-bred DUPLO was in command from the home turn and won easily. He has plenty of the miles on the clock but really has been running well recently.
CLASA CAFÉ, one who makes a bit of noise suggesting a breathing problem, ran creditably in second, held but clear of the remainder, with ADDISON third having raced prominently.
Sponsor here was the Prague tour company Martin Tour whose buses we saw around the city during our trip. If you like churches you will love Prague, there’s one around every corner, but be prepared to put in a bit of legwork as most tours seem to include walking.

15:40 4600m (2m 7f)  Evy Palyzove Steeplechase (Category 1)

The feature event of the afternoon and the runners paraded before the start to a generous reception from the crowd in the ‘main stand’. I would imagine the better runners in this would figure in the 130-140 if they came over to the UK.

The route, over the longest distance used at the course, took in two circuits of the main steeplechase course plus both an inner and outer loop of the cross-country. This meant a grandstand view of the runners streaming over the water on one circuit and then taking the double next time round. There was double unseat at the double, AMARAGON depositing Martin Liska at the first part and the favourite BLESK dumping Thomas Boyer at the second part. The jockeys got together after to decide where it had gone wrong!

The winner was HAWA BALI, twice a winner at Dundalk earlier in his career, then pitched up over hurdles in Italy before settling in the Czech Republic. This was a battle of attrition which saw horses gradually drop off the pace, leaving the winner well clear on the final circuit. He’s not been heavily raced, is only a seven-year-old and might be worth noting if travelling abroad for cross-country events.
I last saw KYSHANTY running on the all-weather in a nursery at Kempton in 2006 having previously won at Salisbury and Chepstow in the charge of Richard Hannon. He’s got a decent record in these events of late and ran well to fill a clear second place.
BELMONT plugged on into a well beaten third, with BE JAPE(fourth), TARO and LOIRE well behind for the final mile.
Five-year-old REAPER’s form suggests he’s a decent young chaser, but he went lame and was pulled up before the water jump.

16:10 1300m (6½f) Handicap (Category 4)

This is bit like Chester at this sort of distance, so tight is the track. The draw unsurprisingly favoured low numbers.

QUAFF raced prominently from trap 1 and led down the centre in the straight to take this race.
 ARTAGAN(stall 5) broke the stalls before the start, but the remainder were held awaiting his return. He ran creditably to take second place with VALMONT third from stall 6.

16:25 1300mm Unregistered Horses

Only two runners listed in the programme but five took part. BARACKA ridden by Vratislav Caslavka won this and connections seemed well chuffed!

16:40 1300m (6½f) Handicap (Category 5)

I believe this is the lowest grade and they are running for prize money similar to the point-to-points.

On looks PRAGMATIK was outstanding seemed to have this at his mercy and his form in better grades looked good more than good enough. His odds were very low though, a shade of odds-on and no advantage to be had. He showed good speed early and had the race won from the home turn.

He was followed home by PULP FICTION, lightly raced and running creditably dropped in class, and veteran NEXTREME was a well held third.

The facilities are not quite what we would expect in the UK, the racing probably would be the lower end of the ability scale, but the meeting was well run and there was plenty of enthusiasm from the 2,000 crowd. I’d certainly not turn down the chance to see other Czech meetings if the chance was there. I do have Pardubice down as a must visit!