Pardubicka marked for export with Stamp

Greg Wood on Britain's challenge for one of the world's most gruelling races

For those who feel that the Grand National lost much of its character when they filled in Becher's Brook, there is only one place to be this Sunday. For 10 minutes or so at Pardubice racecourse in the Czech Republic, horses and riders will contest the most gruelling steeplechase in the world, the Velka Pardubicka, across banks, ploughed fields, deep water- filled ditches and, of course, the notorious Taxis, an enormous open ditch. The pairing which emerges victorious could fairly claim to be, if not the best on the planet, then certainly the most courageous, and for the second year running, they are likely to be British.

It's A Snip, the winner 12 months ago when ridden by Charlie Mann, his trainer, will line up once again on Sunday, this time with Richard Dunwoody in the saddle. Even Dunwoody, though, admits that the horse to beat will be Irish Stamp, who is trained in Middleham by Ferdy Murphy and will be ridden by Norman Williamson.

Until recently, British interest in the Pardubicka was largely limited to occasional forays by cavalier amateurs riding their own point-to-pointers. Such was the unforgiving - some might say sadistic - nature of the course that serious trainers would not conceive of exposing their horses to such risk. As at Aintree, though, the organisers realised that the high fatality rate, among both riders and horses, could not be sustained. Alterations to the course have ensured that, while it remains formidable, the Pardubicka no longer asks questions of its competitors which most cannot hope to answer.

As a result, and again this mirrors the Liverpool experience, better horses are now being tempted by the race's pounds 44,000 total purse, of which more than pounds 22,000 will be earned by the winner. Irish Stamp may well be the most talented chaser to line up for any of the 106 renewals of the Pardubicka, and if he adapts to the track's unique demands, he will be very difficult to beat.

"He's the ideal type for the race," Murphy said yesterday. "He's very adaptable and he stays all day. He was second in the Belgian National at Waregem, which is a similar type of course, and when Richard [Dunwoody] saw how well he ran there, he said we'd be the ones to beat on Sunday. He did some great work before he left, and we also schooled him across a three-day-event course at Catterick. My son Paul travelled out with him and he's really pleased with how well he is."

Any local punters with access to a British form book will be in little doubt about where to place their bets. On official handicap ratings, Irish Stamp is 25lb superior to It's A Snip, who must take him on at level weights on Sunday. As Murphy put it, "with a bit of luck, he should nearly draw". It is also fortunate that Irish Stamp is not a natural front-runner, since the field must pick its way back and forth as it crosses a total of 55 obstacles, and even a rider of Williamson's ability could easily take a wrong turn.

As for the most famous obstacle, Murphy believes that most of the runners who come to grief at the Taxis, which is jumped only once, early in the race, do so because their riders are too keen to clear it. "I've talked to Richard Pitman, who has been out there, and he says they gallop at the Taxis at 100 miles an hour," the trainer said. "You want to ride it like a normal fence and allow your horse to pick up and really jump."

It sounds simple enough, but in practice it may be rather less so. "The owner likes the craic, so why not have a go?" Murphy said. We can only hope that the question will remain rhetorical on Monday morning.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea