The Velka Pardubicka steeplechase was first held in 1874 (making it the oldest steeplechase on the European continent) and is regarded as one of the toughest races of its kind. An estimated 25,000 spectators turned out on Sunday for the 116th Velka Pardubicka, which was most successful from a Czech point of view, with the Czech trained horse Decent Fellow coming in first. Its rider, Josef Bartos, was the first Czech jockey to win the event in five years. Remarkably, the second-placed Juventus was ridden by Josef Vana, 53, who also trains that horse and winner Decent Fellow. After the race, Vana said age need not be an issue, when you have the right animal.
"When you have the right horse it isn't a big problem. But it's still true that I was pleasantly surprised how Juventus dealt with some difficult situations at jumps. I think it's a horse for the future...I'd like to thank everyone in our team, and everybody who crossed their fingers for us. And for anybody who didn't - it serves them right!"
Among the 17 jockeys taking part in Sunday's Velka Pardubicka was one woman, Martina Ruzickova. After previously failing to complete the Velka Pardubicka four times, her luck did not change on Sunday, when she fell at the treacherous Taxis jump. Ruzickova, who is 42, says she is now planning to retire.
The Czech Republic's perfect start to the campaign to qualify for football's 2008 European Championships continued on Saturday, with a victory over San Marino making it three wins out of three. San Marino are one of European football's true minnows, and the Czechs cruised to a 7:0 win. As well as the obligatory three points, the match - held in Liberec - was important in giving Jan Koller and Milan Baros the chance to find their scoring feet again, after spells of injury and poor form for both strikers. They got two goals apiece, while Marek Kulic, David Jarolim and Jan Polak bagged the rest.
Milan Baros had this to say after the game.
"I always look forward to every game with the national team. It was the first competitive game I started since we played Italy at the World Cup, so you could say my season has just started. My season has started well, although it didn't start till October. I hope I make it through the whole season without injury, and that it continues like this."
Baros and Co. will be in action again on Wednesday, when they take on the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. The Czech Republic currently top Group D, three points ahead of Germany who have played a game less.
After leading Slavia Prague to the finals of the ice hockey Extraliga last season, Vladimir Ruzicka has said he will decide whether to step down as coach this week. Slavia are bottom of the table and have lost seven games in a row, the latest defeat at the hands of Kladno on Sunday.
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