Off to the Races

Head down to Velká Chuchle for an exciting day of fun

Nick Young

Written by Nick Young Published on 11.04.2013 15:34:38 (updated on 11.04.2013) Reading time: 5 minutes

Nowadays, it’s not easy to find an event that your granddad would have enjoyed. You know, one that was full of guys drinking, gambling, and smoking big cigars, while not worrying about their language or manners as much as enjoying the moment with their buddies. Fortunately, there still exists a place that a man can act like a man the same way he did in the old days: the race track, and the Czech Republic knows how to put on a horse race with the best of them.

Horse racing in the Czech lands is not a new phenomenon, with a proud tradition stretching back to 1816 when the Austrian King and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II determined that his favorite sport needed a place within the Bohemian kingdom. Since that time the racing circuit has become one of the most recognized in Europe and holds several important and internationally recognized events each year.

While still competing at a high level, horse racing is not just the sport of kings any longer, but the sport of anyone with a few extra crowns to spend on a cheap admission ticket, some grilled klobasa, and 10-degree Staropramen out of a plastic cup.

Fans can choose from over 15 race courses to visit throughout the country, known as Dostihové závodiště in Czech. Races kick off in the spring and summer in cities such as Brno, Karlovy Vary, and Most, but the two most celebrated and popular tracks are located near Prague and Pardubice.

The Pardubice race track, located 120km east of Prague, is home to the most storied event of the season, the Velká pardubická. This event has taken place since 1874 and has hosted Hapsburg-era dukes, a wave of dominant and much loathed Soviet riders during communism, several victorious British riders that inspired Czech racing fans, and helped establish one of the racing world’s most legendary jockeys, the timeless Josef Váňa, who first won the race in 1987 and amazingly won it again for three consecutive years in 2009, 2010, and one last time in 2011, at the tender age of 58.

This event is different from the typical horse race you might be used to, such as the Kentucky Derby where the horses run around an oval shaped track. The steeplechase course presents obstacles – called fences – such as hedges, pools of water, stone walls, and has varying terrain of dirt and grass. Each fence requires the horse to jump cleanly or risk launching its diminutive jockey skyward.

It has a reputation of being one of the most challenging tracks in all of Europe, with races that last for over nine minutes while traversing over seven kilometers. The heart stopping spectacle usually offers several falls and close calls before a final, heart pounding straight away to determine the champion. It is horse racing at its absolute best.

For more information on the race and the Pardubice racing season, including dates and tickets, take a look at the official website in English:

If you are looking for a race near Prague, then the choice is the Velká Chuchle race track, located in the Southwestern part of the city.

The races here, known as flat races, are probably what casual fans expect when they picture a horse racing competition, which is a thrilling sprint around an oval dirt track by the fastest thoroughbred horses around.  
These events are typically favored by bettors, who get a chance to win quickly at several different races throughout the day. Each betting window generally has an attendant that will be able to help you place your bet in English or at least give you some written info in English on how the betting systems work.

Here is a quick explanation of some of the common types of bets you can make:

  • Winner (VÍTĚZ): If a horse has a 3:1 chance to win and you bet 50 CZK on the winner, you earn back 150 CZK
  • Win-Place (VÍTĚZ / MÍSTO): You pick two horses, one must win and the other must get #2 or #3 in the race. A win-place earns you more than just picking the winner.
  • Combination (Kombinace):
    – Duo (MALÉ POŘADÍ): If you correctly pick the horses that finish #1 and #2, you win a higher amount of money than just picking a winner.
    – Trifecta (VELKÉ POŘADÍ): If you correctly pick the horses that finish #1, #2, and #3 then you can win a seriously substantial amount. 

For more detailed info, go to the betino betting page, which is the official and exclusive betting system for all horse races in the Czech Republic. 

The races at Velká Chuchle are scheduled to take place every Sunday, starting April 14th and ending on October 27th. The biggest race of the year is the much regaled Czech Derby, held on June 23rd, which offers a 2.5 million Crown payout to the winner. That’s enough to bring out the fastest 3 year old thoroughbreds in the country for you to marvel at amidst the colorful crowd of Prague’s most important socialites, gamblers, and racing fans.

Another great day to attend the races at the Prague race track is with the British Chamber of Commerce annual “Family Day at the Races” held on April 21st. This event features not only an enjoyable afternoon of watching the horses, but offers plenty of activities for mom to enjoy such as wine tasting and a hat fashion competition, as well as lots of fun stuff for the kids to be distracted by such as sumo suits and free balloon animals. Tickets and more info can be found on the BCC website.

The Velká Chuchle track boasts easy access from central Prague by public transport and affordable tickets, particularly if you own a yearlong Prague Open Card, which gets you free admission to every race day. Take a peek at their website for a list of races, regular admission fees, and other info.

Whether you win or lose, you can expect a great time with your day out at the races. So grab your disposable cash, your cigars, and a couple of your loudest friends to go cheer on the ponies as they race their way around the track while having some good, old school kind of fun.

Related articles

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more