It started pretty well: 6th March 2015 and an unconsidered rag called El Mundo – sent off at 33/1 – was delivered with a textbook waiting ride to land the Thrusters Hunters’ Chase at Leicester. In spite of his fledgling 100% record, plenty remained unaware of the rising talent doing the steering that day.
Rachael Honeyball, nee Green, was already a convert having legged young Harry Cobden up on eleven winners between the flags in the 2014/15 point to point season. That was enough to confer champion status on both – Rachael as Leading Small Trainer, and Harry as Leading Novice Rider – with all the wins being provided by two horses, Cock Of The Rock and Silver Token.
Cobden, like 2015 Apprentice Series winner, Tom Marquand, and 2014/15 Conditional Series winner, Sean Bowen, is a graduate of the Pony Racing scene, and he put that experience to good use with a flying start under Rules.
It took just two more rides to record a second Rules victory, this time for Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls. Such lofty early support was a tremendous vote of confidence in the young conditional, and Cobden has since ridden 63 more times for his now guv’nor, scoring on a round dozen to date.
Other major supporters of Harry’s progress include Anthony Honeyball, for whom he’s ridden nine winners from 24 runners (37%, +10.58); Michael Blake (7/24, 29%, +6.93); and Ron Hodges (3/23, 13%, +10).
It was the last named who provided Cobden with his fiftieth winner under Rules, on Sunday at Kempton, just eighteen months after his first. The half century could hardly have been reached more fittingly, as the well-named Miss Tenacious gave the partnership its third victory from 16 starts together, a sequence that includes five further placed efforts. Harry has been riding out for Hodges, Miss Tenacious’s trainer, since he was eleven years old!
Harry’s trajectory looks set to remain upward, a statement lent credence by a run of eight wins from 30 rides since the start of September, and he looks set to go close in the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship.
His main rivals there are David Noonan, Tom Bellamy, and another Harry, Bannister. Each is a fine talent, but no other can boast the potential firepower of a large stable; perhaps David Noonan, like Cobden affiliated to the Honeyball yard, but whose employer is David Pipe, will be his main challenger.
Indeed, Cobden and Noonan finished first and second – in that order – in the 2015/16 Conditional Hands and Heels Series. Former top level rider, and now one of the BHA’s jockey coaches, Rodi Greene, offered the highest praise, saying, “Harry has come a long way in a short time, he is a gifted rider who should go all the way. Harry reminds me of Ruby Walsh in the way he lets horses jump for him without moving around too much and also his riding of a finish is good and he can use his whip in both hands”.
Undoubtedly the biggest win of his career so far was aboard the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle winner, Old Guard, at last season’s Cheltenham Open meeting, but he’s been knocking on the door plenty in a number of other big races.
Silver medals in the Rehearsal Chase, the Peter Marsh Chase (both on Virak), and the bet365 Gold Cup Chase – still known to many as the Whitbread – have been frustrating and promising in equal measure. That each of those races was over the bigger obstacles may not be mere coincidence given Cobden’s patient prowess in the pointing sphere.
The numbers back up that impression, with Harry currently batting at 24% in chases for a level stakes profit of 14.74. Those figures do not include his 32 points profit from two rides in hunter chases, courtesy of the aforementioned El Mundo.
Hurdle performance is not far behind. Cobden has 32 winners over hurdles so far, at a 21% clip, for a profit of 22.5 points to date. Curiously, he is still to ride a National Hunt Flat race winner, though this is more likely a function of a small twelve-race sample and big-priced mounts than the absence of obstacles. A rifle through the records reveals that just two of the dozen bumper rides were sent off shorter than 9/1, Cobden achieving placed finishes on a pair of 50/1 chances.
So what of the immediate future? With Paul Nicholls’ retained jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, unfortunately sidelined by a nasty injury to his spleen, Harry looks set to be a significant beneficiary at Team Ditcheat in the short-term, perhaps beginning this weekend at Cheltenham’s season-opening Showcase meeting.
One thing is for sure: Harry Cobden is a name to follow this jump season. And you’ll be able to do that more closely than you might have thought, because he’ll be penning a weekly diary right here on geegeez.co.uk