An English-trained horse on his second run of the year produced a surprise result in one of the world’s toughest steeplechases, the 113th Velka Pardubice Steeplechase.
Falcon Du Coteau, trained by Charlie Mann, finished fourth to the delight of the Whitcoombe partnership, which bought the horse especially for this race.
Charlie has an impressive record in the Czech Republic’s famous race; he won on It’s A Snip in 1995 — the horse he also trained to finish second and third in 1996 and 1997.
He says: “I didn’t expect him to do this well. Noel [Fehily] gave him an excellent ride and if he comes out of this well we could go for the Sporting Index Chase at Cheltenham.”
The only other overseas runner, the Irish Mose Harper, unseated his rider at the 19th.
Strong Irish and British contingents were among the 15,000 spectators and, in contrast to several years ago, had the luxury of an English language racecard.
Nineteen horses ran the 4½ miles over 30 cross-country fences, including the daunting Taxis, a hedge so named because you can park a taxi lengthways in its ditch, for a prize-fund of £100,000.
The favourite, Registana, ridden by the German jockey Peter Gehm, won, followed by 2002 winner Maskul, who was clawing back lost ground right up to the line. Czech trainer and jockey Josef Vana came third with Decent Fellow, a horse he hopes to bring over for the 2004 Grand National.