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The length of the steeplechase is 6.9 km (4 miles 506 yards), with 31 obstacles. It usually takes 9–10 minutes to finish the course; the record is 8:56.01 set by Ribelino in 2015.
Horses starting in the race must be at least 6 years old (prior to 2009, the minimum age was 7 years); Czech horses must qualify by finishing at least one of four qualifying races during the season.
The race was first run in 1874 in Pardubice, a town long known in the horse racing world, as some trainers and jockeys from England came there to work. The current steeplechase course was established in 1856, however the course first took its present-day form in the years just after the Second World War.
The course of the race has been changed several times, most recently in 1998 when the direction of the final phase of the race was changed to accommodate the new grandstand. The surface of the racecourse is mainly grass, but one-quarter of the race is run through ploughed fields, which used to take almost half of the race in the past. Some obstacles have also been changed, mostly to improve safety, although the difficulty of the race is said to have suffered as a result.
Horses must negotiate a total of 31 obstacles. These are:
- 1 - Hedge (1.2m)
- 2 - Hedge with ditch (1.3m, with a 60 cm ditch on the other side)
- 3 - Small water jump (3m long)
- 4 - Taxis ditch. This is the most famous obstacle in the race, and it is jumped just once. 28 horses have died at this obstacle. In the past it consisted of a 2 m deep and 5 m long ditch hidden behind a 1.5 m high hedge. Nowadays, it is a 1 m deep and 4 m long ditch with a 1.5 m high hedge. This obstacle is used only for the Velká pardubická, and horses are not permitted to use it for training.
- 5 - Irish bank. This unusual obstacle requires the horses to shimmy up and down a steep artificial bank.
- 6 - Popkovic ditch. (1.3m hedge with a 2m long ditch on the other side)
- 7 - French jump. A pair of closely spaced hedges, 1.2m and 1.3m in height, which must be jumped as one.
- 8 & 9 - Small gardens. A pair of hedges, 1.25m and 1.3m in height, which are jumped in quick succession.
- 10 - English jump. (1.2m hedge with a ditch on the takeoff side)
- 10a - Extended taxis ditch. (Small hedge, about 1.1m tall, which joins with the main taxis ditch)
- 11 - Hedge with ditch. (1.3m, with a ditch on the landing side)
Historically, the most successful horse in the race was Železník. The horse won the race four times (from 1987 to 1989 and again in 1991).
Josef Váňa Sr. is the most successful jockey, having achieved eight victories, and he is also a very well known celebrity in the Czech Republic. There is a 2012 movie about him (Váňa, directed by Jakub Wagner). He has also trained 10 winners of the Velká Pardubická and six horses which have finished in second place.
The only woman to have won the race as of 2018 is Lata Brandis, who won in 1937 with a mare, Norma.
|2018||Tzigane du Berlais||Jan Faltejsek||Pavel Tůma|
|2017||No Time To Lose||Jan Kratochvíl||Josef Váňa sr.|
|2016||Charme Look||Jan Faltejsek||Martina Růžičková|
|2015||Ribelino||Pavel Kašný||Stanislav Kovář|
|2014||Orphee des Blins||Jan Faltejsek||Grzegorz Wroblewski|
|2013||Orphee des Blins||Jan Faltejsek||Grzegorz Wroblewski|
|2012||Orphee des Blins||Jan Faltejsek||Grzegorz Wroblewski|
|2011||Tiumen||Josef Váňa sr.|
|2010||Tiumen||Josef Váňa sr.|
|2009||Tiumen||Josef Váňa sr.|
|2006||Decent Fellow||J. Bartoš|
|1997||Vronsky||J. Váňa sr.|
|1995||It's a Snip||Ch. Mann|
|1991||Železník||Josef Váňa sr.|
|1989||Železník||Josef Váňa sr.|
|1988||Železník||Josef Váňa sr.|
|1987||Železník||Josef Váňa sr.|
|1973||Stephen's Society||CH. Collins|
|1970||Vezna II||N. G. Milev|
|1964||Priboj||V. Z. Gorelkin|
|1962||Gaboj||R. P. Makarov|
|1961||Grifel||I. L. Avdějev|
|1960||Grifel||I. L. Avdějev|
|1959||Epigraf||V. P. Prachov|
|1958||Epigraf||V. P. Prachov|
|1957||Epigraf||V. N. Fedin|
|1955||Furioso XIV||J. Čajda|
|1947||Rayon De||M. Buret|
|1937||Norma||L. v. Brandis|
|1930||Gyi Lovam!||R. Popler|
|1929||Ben Hur||G. Schwandt|
|1926||All Right II||R. Popler|
|1925||Landgraf II||K. Holoubek|
|1923||Landgraf II||J. Pinter|
|1913||Dick Turpin||F. Janek|
|1910||Paul Heston||M. Seiffert|
|1906||Tigra||H. H. Huxtable|
|1905||Scotch Moor||M. Seiffert|
|1904||Dennis||T. H. Buckenham|
|1903||Jour Fix||U. Rosak|
|1902||Jour Fix||U. Rosak|
|1901||Chorazy||F. E. Slinn|
|1900||Magyarád||T. H. Buckenham|
|1899||Slava||T. H. Buckenham|
|1898||Handy Andy||R. Jekyll|
|1896||Lady Anne||E. Geoghegan|
|1895||Galamb II||A. Hall|
|1894||Lady Anne||E. Geoghegan|
|1891||Lady Anne||R. Fletcher|
|1888||Et Caetera||M. Phillips|
|1884||Jessica||W. H. Moore|
|1882||Per Dampf||T. Harraway|
|1880||Good Morning||M. Phillips|
- In 2008, Amant Gris finished first but was disqualified for taking the wrong course.
- The 1968 race was cancelled due to the Prague Spring.
- The race was not run in 1938-1945 due to Nazi occupation and the Second World War.
- The race was not run in 1914-1919 due to the First World War.
- The 1912 and 1913 race were dead heats.
- The 1909 race was declared void as none of the three horses that ran finished.
- The 1908 race was cancelled due to snow.
- The 1876 race was cancelled due to frost.