The top-level CSI Prague Arena event that will see Czech show-jumping’s number one rider in competition, is starting in just one week. Opatrný will bring his two best horses – Gentlemen and Forewer on whom he won the Linz Grand Prix last Sunday.
Chuchle Arena Prague will host two high-profile show-jumping events over the next two weeks. Riders and horses will compete in the World Cup, Nations Cup and have a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games, European and World Championships and earn points for the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) Longines Rankings.
The attractive event schedule is getting even more appealing, as the complete Czech A Team will take part in the competitions; individual team members will compete for a place on the Czech Olympic Team. It seems unthinkable that Aleš Opatrný would not be among the three members of the Olympic team (or four, if the reserve rider is taken into account). He also qualified his two top horses who will be competing in Prague. There is no doubt that after winning the Linz Grand Prix in Austria, he would like to repeat his last week’s success with Forewer. This time they will try for the best possible result in the Nations Cup together.
“Before the event in Linz we had a pre-Olympic night jumping practice with Forewer and Gentlemen in Farma Ptýrov close to Mnichovo Hradiště. They both did great, although Forewer was spooking at shadows during warm up, we had no problems at all in the jumping arena. And Gentlemen was just great,” said Opatrný disclosing details about an important part of their practice. The Olympic competitions will be held in the evenings and horses must get used to spotlights, shadows, and other distractions.
The event in Linz was the first meeting after almost two months of suspended competitions due to the equine herpesvirus EHV-1 infection spreading across continental Europe. “The first days of the practice were more like a warmup to give horses a chance to start moving. No matter how much you practice at home, it will not make up for the lost experience in competitions,” he said. “Forewer and Gentlemen were lucky that we had been able to take part in the Sunshine Tour in Spain earlier, so they had already had some jumping practice. One could see that the other horses were getting more tired. The course designer in Linz built rather long and demanding courses. Most horses were running on empty by the end of the course.”
Forewer had no problems at all and was not defeated in the Grand Prix. “We have already won several Grand Prix events. Last year we won the Sunshine Tour Grand Prix and we also succeeded in a World Cup competition in Olomouc. This year I was hoping to win again in Spain, unfortunately, the odds were against us, as the event was cancelled. The victory in Linz compensated for the lost chance and hopefully we will also succeed here in Prague,” he hopes. He certainly does not plan to go full speed in all the competitions. “I will focus on the Nations Cup with Forewer in the second week of competitions. In the first week we will compete on Thursday and Friday, but I have no ambition to win. I always finetune our performance for the most important competition of an event,” he disclosed his plan. “During the first week, I would like to compete with Gentlemen in the CSI Arena Prague Grand Prix. Which of the horses will compete in the Grand Prix one week later will become clear after the Nations Cup on Friday,” he added. He will ride four of his horses during each of the events, the second pair of horses will consist of one more experienced and one young horse with a new pair to be brought for the CSIO CET a week later.
CSI Prague Arena will take place in the Velká Chuchle Arena from 29th April to 2nd May. The event will consist of 18 competitions and is endowed with the total prize money of EUR 91,000. Riders and horses will have a chance to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and for the European Championship as well as for the 2022 World Championship during this event. The CEI Prague Arena will also be a qualification event for the European Championship for Young Riders and Juniors, the top-level event of the year for young riders and junior young riders.
There will be three tours within the CSI*-W. The Silver Tour will take place on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, the Gold Tour is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the Diamond Tour competitions will be held on Thursday and Friday. The meeting will climax with the Grand Prix, which is a World Cup event. The Grand Prix is endowed with EUR 30,000 prize money. Competitions for young horses (6 and 7 year-olds) and the CSI1* Small Tour are scheduled over the first three days of the event. The Big Tour in this class will take place on all days except Friday.
“We are truly sorry that show-jumping fans, whose numbers are steadily growing in the Czech Republic, will not be able to attend this top-flight sporting event in which riders and horses will have yet another chance to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games, European and World Championships. On the other hand, we are happy that the event can take place at all in view of the current situation. We will try to do our best to provide top media coverage of the events for our fans,” said Markéta Šveňková, CSI Prague Arena and CSIO CET Event Director.
As the maximum number of people who can be in the complex at the same time is 400 and due to very strict anti-covid measures, the presence of media representatives on site will be restricted. “Due to the limited number of people allowed in the arena and the anti-covid measures that we have to comply with pursuant to the exception issued by the National Sport Agency and the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic, media representatives will not be allowed in the arena,” continues Šveňková.
Comprehensive event information, rider lists, results and official photographs will be published on the events websites – www.csi-praguearena.com and www.csiopraha.cz. In addition to live coverage, the websites will also feature interviews with riders and staff. “Accredited journalists will have an opportunity to use our online platform for live interviews with selected riders. Our press centre will try to be as helpful as possible to accommodate all requests for interviews. We believe that show-jumping fans will not miss anything important despite the interaction being only virtual this time,” added the Event Director.
The ČT Sport channel on Czech Television will offer live coverage of the CSI Prague Arena Grand Prix on Sunday, 2nd May at 3:30 p.m.; live broadcast of the first round of the CSIO CET Nations Cup will start on Friday, 7th May at 12:30 p.m., the second round at 2:45 p.m. The last broadcast is planned for Sunday, 9th May, with the CSIO CET Grand Prix starting at 3:30 p.m. On-line broadcasts will be available every day and will begin approximately 15 minutes before the start of the first competition, i.e. at around 8:00 a.m. Continually updated information will be available on the events websites.
Photo by Kateřina Návojová