Harry Cobden is the number one jockey at Ditcheat for Britain's champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the rider's talents have really started to shine through of late.
He seemingly has wisdom beyond his 24 years and Cobden is learning to cope with the pressure of being the main man at one of Britain's biggest training operations.
|What||2024 Grand National|
|When||5.15, Saturday 13th April 2024|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV & Racing TV|
|Odds||Corach Rambler 20/1, Kitty’s Light 20/1, Gaillard Du Mesnil 25/1, I Am Maximus 25/1|
By the age of just 19, Harry Cobden had been named stable jockey for top jumps trainer Paul Nicholls and claimed a first Cheltenham Festival win on Kilbricken Storm for Colin Tizzard, the man that really helped get his career on the move.
Growing up in Somerset, a hotbed of National Hunt racing, the young Cobden spent his formative days on the beef farm that his parents run, ensuring animals were always going to be a part of his life.
He was pony racing before his 10th birthday and local trainer Ron Hodges was amongst the earliest outside influences on the youngster.
Having competed against Nicholls' daughter Megan on the pony racing circuit, Cobden soon found his summers being spent riding out at nearby Ditcheat where his skills were honed watching the likes of Ruby Walsh at work.
Cobden's first win under Rules was actually for Anthony Honeyball in March 2015 and it came with a story attached.
The now 16-year-old Cobden skipped his English GCSE exam to ride El Mondo at Leicester for Honeyball's wife Rachael Green in a hunters' chase and brought the horse home in front at odds of 33/1.
He was soon to be offered a job as conditional rider at Ditcheat, and he got the first key winner of his career when landing the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November 2015 on Old Guard.
He had 30 winners in that 2015/16 campaign and was splitting his time between Nicholls and Tizzard but a major career decision was pending before he'd even left his teens behind.
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Having won the Champion Conditional Jockey for 2016/17 and already bagged a Grade 1 win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Irving, Cobden took the plunge.
On 4th May 2018, it was announced that he would replace Sam Twiston-Davies as stable jockey for Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat.
"It was a big decision at the time as I was also riding a lot of winners for Colin Tizzard, a neighbouring trainer. After taking my time to think about it, I accepted the job and haven't looked back," Cobden later reflected.
Nicholls, for his part, said that he 'had to act' with the knowledge that Tizzard was also keen to have him as stable jockey.
Barely a month after starting in the role, he suffered a serious neck injury that kept him on the sidelines for almost four months.
In 2018/19, Cobden hit a century of winners as he established himself in the role at Ditcheat, bagging the 2019 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on board Topofthegame.
The season just ended was a standout one for Cobden and, in the eyes of many, a true coming of age.
He won the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day with a well-judged ride on Bravemansgame, and that particular runner is now 12/1 to give Cobden his first sampling of Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in 2024 after they were an honourable second to Galopin Des Champs this spring.
Either side of the New Year, Cobden actually managed to make it three successive Grade 1 wins in Britain as Hermes Allen won the Challow at Newbury and then Tahmuras bagged the Tolworth at Sandown.
At Cheltenham in March he helped Britain's champion trainer Nicholls to a Grade 1 brace as Stage Star won the Turners Novices' Chase and Stay Away Fay powered home to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, before Bravemansgame only gave best to the imperious Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup itself.
Having gone through the century mark in terms of winners in the season just ended, Cobden can be very satisfied with his work. There will be plenty of summer jumps to keep him busy while he's got plenty to look forward to at Ditcheat again next season.
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