Czechs seek to strike gold with Nagano
Trainer Luka hoping to make mark in Europe Chester deal secures future of Musselburgh
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