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Wielka Warszawska: the capital’s racing celebration

The last Sunday of September at the Służewiec Horse Race Track will be exceptional. The date of September 25 should be marked in your calendar, because, as Julian Jabłkowski said in the series “Jan Heart,” “For a true Varsovian, three dates are the most important in life: your wedding, the Uprising and … the Great Warsaw Race”. References to this, the most important autumn race in Poland, held for the 109th time this year, can be found in culture more widely, because it is a historical symbol of the capital city races. The history of this race is inextricably linked with the fate of Poland, which is why until 1946 Wielka Warszawska, established by August Potocki on the model of the French Grand Prix de Paris, was held irregularly. Two world wars and the dependence on Russian subsidies during the partitions made it impossible to run, although it sometimes happened that it took place in Odessa or Lublin (as the Great Lublin Award). Fortunately, after the war it returned to Służewiec for good.

In terms of competition, Wielka Warszawska is the highlight of the English thoroughbred calendar in the second part of the season. This is the most important comparative race for Thoroughbreds in Poland, held on a similar date to the Arc de Triomphe, for which the best horses from Europe, and sometimes the whole world, compete. The conditions of the run are analogous – it is a confrontation of Derby-year (3-year-olds) with older horses. Due to the timing of the race, the former carry 5 kg less, which is quite important over a distance of 2,600 m. In the last 10 editions, horses from the Derby year category (including five Derby winners) have won seven times.

Ultimately, 11 horses have been entered in this year’s edition, three of which are three years old: Calliepie, who ran in France (she was second in the Oaks at Służewiec), and two leaders of the year in Poland: the oaxist Lady Iwona and the Derby winner Jolly Jumper. Among the four-year-old and older horses is last year’s winner of the Great Warsaw Race and the Horse of the Year 2021 – Night Tornado (he was also second in 2020). This season for Krzysztof Ziemiański, the ace of the stable, has not been as great as the previous one, but in his last starts he has already shown good form and it will not be easy to beat him. At the start we will also see Petit, who has been regularly competing at the highest level, and the consistent Gryphon, and Adahlen, who is improving all the time.

The international character of the competition will be provided by the participation of as many as five horses trained abroad. Apart from the aforementioned Calliepie, Plontier returns from France after two years to Służewiec. The six-year-old has had a fantastic year in which he has won six races – five in France and one in Spain. He has been tested at a high level recently and performed really solidly, finishing second in a listed race in Italy and 6th at the G2 in Deauville. After a year, German Nania, who knows the track well, also returns to Warsaw. Last year she won the (Polish) Oaks and took second place in the (Polish) Derby and 5th in the Great Warsaw Race. The other two are guests from the Czech Republic, trained by Grzegorz Wróblewski, Wilantos and Culihrach, on which his trainer Martin Havelkov will ride.

The Autumn Gala is not only about the Great Warsaw race. Traditionally, on the same day, two prestigious tests for two-year-olds will be held: the Award of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Westminster Cardei Award. The miller’s race for the Moszna Award is also expected to be fantastic, with another match between the excellent Timemaster and the experienced and titled Emiliano Zapata and the brave three-year-old Jenny of Success. It promises to be a great racing celebration!

On this day, we will see some of the best horses, the atmosphere of old Warsaw will prevail, and the public will be able to put on its unique racing outfits, all this taking place in an unusual, autumn aura. Wielka Warszawska is the perfect moment to put in the style. There is also amazing headgear! Traditionally, it will be possible to take part in the “Competition for the most beautiful styling of the 1930s in a hat, fascinator or other similar headgear.” The fashion competition will take place in several classes for ladies, gentlemen and children. During the event there will also be meetings with the Association of the Warsaw Gwara, which will prepare quizzes, puzzles and riddles, and not only for the youngest. There will be an amusement park awaiting kids, including: inflatables, a playground, eurobungee, railroad and photo booth. Admission for children and adolescents is free.

photo credits: Tor Wyścigów Konnych Służewiec / Służewiec Racecourse