The biggest event on the Czech horse-racing calendar, the 112th Grand Pardubice Steeplechase, was won on Sunday by the eight-year-old Maskula ridden by German jockey Peter Gehm. It was Gehm's second win in a row in what is said to be one of the toughest steeplechases in Europe; last year he came first on Chalco. Robin Healey, an Englishman active in the world of Czech horse-racing, described the atmosphere at the Grand Pardubice.
"The atmosphere was very good. It was a little bit spoiled by the cold and rainy weather. Czech fans in particular don't like to go out on cold wet afternoons and that affected the size of the crowd. But there was a very big international audience. Many people had come from England, also from Italy, Germany and many other countries."
The Grand Pardubice is famous around the world; how does it compare to steeplechases in other countries? Robin Healey again.
"It's a type of race which is rather different from the races in countries like Britain and Ireland, where they run round and round the outside of the track. This is a cross-country race with a variety of different fences and it's more spectacular."
It was far from enjoyable to watch but the Czech Republic's first qualifier for Euro 2004 - away to Moldova - can be characterised as 'mission accomplished'. The pitch in Kishinev was a complete mud-bath, and there was little room for flair among the puddles. The Czechs left it worrying late to get on the score-sheet, and it wasn't until the 69th minute that they got their first goal, when Marek Jankulovski converted a penalty after Tomas Rosicky was brought down in the box. Rosicky himself scored the Czechs' second ten minutes later, when he found himself in space after a great pass from Stepan Vachousek. Goalkeeper Petr Cech provided a safe pair of hands on the few occasions Moldova were on target, but was far from impressed with the pitch.
"You can't really play in ten centimetres of mud, and there were puddles too. I can only admire how the guys played, because maybe you couldn't see it on TV but that terrain was the toughest I've ever seen."
The Czech Republic are in action again on Wednesday, when they face Belarus in Teplice.
Jiri Novak reached his first tennis final of the season at the CA Trophy in Vienna on Sunday, only to be outclassed by Roger Fererer of Switzerland. Novak lost the first two sets 4:6 1:6 before winning the third 6:3. Fererer then took the fourth set 6:4, to deny the Czech number one the title.
Pardubice have extended their lead at the top of ice hockey's Extraliga with a convincing 5:0 win over Pilsen. Litvinov are four points behind after losing 2:1 at home to Slavia Prague, and the hapless Havirov remain at the bottom of the Extraliga, though at least they took one point away to Liberec.
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