Czechs seek to strike gold with Nagano

Trainer Luka hop­ing to make mark in Europe Ch­ester deal se­cures fu­ture of Mus­sel­burgh

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Racing - By Mar­cus Army­tage

The eyes of the Czech Repub­lic will be fo­cused on Paris on Sun­day when Nagano Gold, an un­lucky se­cond in the Hard­wicke Stakes at Royal As­cot af­ter he was knocked over leav­ing the stalls, rep­re­sents his coun­try’s best-ever chance in the Prix de l’arc de Tri­om­phe.

The five-year-old, a 50-1 shot, shares some­thing in com­mon with En­able apart from his age; he is his coun­try’s two-time cham­pion and the an­tic­i­pated end-to-end gal­lop will suit his style of rac­ing.

With Christophe Soumil­lon com­mit­ted to the Ja­panese run­ner, Kiseki, Nagano Gold – one of 12 horses to stand their ground at yes­ter­day’s for­feit stage – will be rid­den by Mick­ael Barza­lona, who won a Listed race on him at Longchamp in April.

“There have been some Czech run­ners in the past, but he is our best chance,” said his trainer Va­clav Luka, 40, a for­mer jump jockey – he rode in three Velka Par­du­bickas – who trains 60 horses at a pri­vate fa­cil­ity 60 miles south of Prague. Luka has been cham­pion Czech trainer three times in a 10-year ca­reer, but his pri­or­ity now is to plun­der prizes around Europe.

He added: “Nagano Gold [who is owned by a syn­di­cate of three in­clud­ing his fa­ther, Va­clav snr] is well. He’s ready to go. It’s the most dif­fi­cult race, but it’s good to try. He was the out­sider at As­cot, so why not? There will be 12 or so run­ners. On the book, it is im­pos­si­ble for him to be in the first four, but in the race? Any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“He can go on any ground, but what is far more im­por­tant is the pace of the race. In the Grand Prix de Deauville, our pace­maker was not good enough and they went very slowly for the first half. We knew that but tried our best.”

Luka is un­likely to be the only Czech in Paris. “A lot of peo­ple are go­ing from home,” he pointed out. “It’s a big day for Czech rac­ing and for us – to take a horse which can be com­pet­i­tive. Nagano Gold is al­ready fa­mous in Czech, if he beats En­able he will be fa­mous in the world.”

Mean­while, Ch­ester Race Com­pany has been ap­pointed to run Mus­sel­burgh, se­cur­ing the fu­ture of the Ed­in­burgh course that has been be­set with prob­lems since 2017 when the lo­cal author­ity, which owns it, and the management team fell out.

How­ever, it is fi­nally RIP Towces­ter af­ter it was “of­fi­cially” closed yes­ter­day. The Northamp­ton­shire course went into ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2018 and no one held out much hope that rac­ing would ever re­turn.

The small chance that rac­ing could re­sume was kept alive when the British Horserac­ing Author­ity al­lot­ted it 10 fix­tures for 2020. But those fix­tures have now been sold to Arena Rac­ing Com­pany and, it would seem, there is no com­ing back for the course now.

Push­ing hard: Nagano Gold (right) fin­ishes se­cond in the Hard­wicke Stakes

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