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Stat of the Day, 13th December 2018

Wednesday's Pick was...

12.50 Southwell : Echo Express @ 10/3 BOG WON at 7/4 (In touch, headway to chase leaders 4 out, led 3 out, strongly challenged after last, held on gamely to win by half a length)

Thursday's pick runs in the...

3.15 Taunton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Capeland @ 3/1 BOG

...in a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m2f on Good ground worth £9357 to the winner...

Why?

This 6 year old gelding has been a model of consistency over the past 12 months with a form line reading 222211, with the last five of those six runs representing his entire chasing career. The wins were both at today's Class 3 and over 1m7.5f and 2m4f respectively, so he's at the right level and a 2n2f trip shouldn't be beyond him, especially as he won over hurdles at 2m2.5f.

His trainer Paul Nicholls isn't generally a man you can follow blindly and make a profit from, despite consistently firing in winners : they just get overbet. However, there are some areas where you can benefit.

In the the past 14 days, Paul's runners are 11/38 (29% SR) for 31.8pts (+83.8% ROI), including those ridden by today's jockey Harry Cobden at 8/21 (38.1%) for 19.3pts (+92.1%), whilst his chasers are 4/17 (23.5%) for 19.9pts (+117.1%).

Another successful angle at play today is the Nicholls / Cobden / Taunton combination with horses priced shorter than 10/3, which currently stands at 9 from 17 (52.9% SR) for 3.9pts (+22.9% ROI).

More generally, however, and with a "proper" sample size for our purpose is the fact that...since the start of 2014 in UK Class 1-4 handicap chases, horses sent off at 7/1 and shorter, 6 to 30 days after winning a novice chase LTO are 176 from 630 (27.9% SR) for 87.4pts (+13.9% ROI), from which the following data subsets are relevant...

  • males are 165/581 (28.4%) for 92.1pts (+15.96%)
  • winners in a handicap LTO : 152/530 (28.7%) for 76.9pts (+14.5%)
  • Class 3 : 78/285 (27.4%) for 36.7pts (+12.9%)
  • on Good ground : 78/241 (30.3%) for 41.1pts (+17.1%)
  • in December : 22/75 (29.3%) for 15.5pts (+20.7%)
  • at Taunton : 5/15 (33.3%) for 0.16pts (+1.04%)
  •  and with Harry Cobden on board : 3/8 (37.5%) for 1.09pts (+13.6%)

...and Class 3 males on good ground who won a Handicap Novice Chase LTO are 28/78 (35.9% SR) for 25.6pts (+32.9% ROI)...

Finally, considering that our pick is likely to attract market attention (not because I picked it, mind!) and is quite likely to be sent off as favourite, it's worth knowing that backing favs isn't always a bad thing. Especially as since 2012, favourites in Taunton handicap chases are 53 from 139 (38.1% SR) for 28.4pts (+20.5% ROI) backed blindly, including...

  • those rested for 45 days or less : 46/117 (39.3%) for 24.8pts (+21.2%)
  • LTO winners are 23/38 (60.5%) for 27.1pts (+71.3%)
  • and those who won LTO in the previous 45 days are 21/35 (60%) for 22.5pts (+64.3%)

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Capeland @ 3/1 BOG, as offered by Bet365, Hills, 10Bet & SportPesa at 6.25pm on Wednesday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.15 Taunton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

PPS Thursday's selection will appear later on Wednesday than usual, I've got an appointment I can't get out of!

Fox lacks Fizz as Nicholls makes it a Tingly Ten

At the highest level, Fox Norton’s vulnerability to a slicker and quicker two-miler proved his undoing, as Politologue held on for a thrilling victory in Saturday’s Tingle Creek at Sandown.

The six-year-old grey, trained by Paul Nicholls, jumped beautifully throughout and at the third-last came alongside Ar Mad at the front of affairs, with a couple of lengths back to Fox Norton. He maintained that advantage to the last and though the runner-up gained all the way to the line, he was never able to bridge the gap.

Nicholls was clearly thrilled with the victory, his tenth in the race: “That means an awful lot, we are just short of a Grade One horse and I always believed in this one. It was a good ride from Harry and I'm delighted for everybody. He is starting to look the proper job. I knew when he went to Exeter there would be huge improvement. No one ever believes you when you say they need a run, but he hadn't been back long enough really.”

The trainer added: “I knew they would go quick and his jumping stands him in great stead. Harry said he just cruises there and ends up idling in front. The faster they go, the more he can get a tow into the race. John (Hales, owner) has always wanted him to be a Gold Cup horse. I just thought at Haydock last season and at Cheltenham we were riding him wrong and doing the wrong thing. That's why I said we will go to back to two at Aintree and we were unlucky that day.”

Speaking to Racing UK a little later Nicholls added: “He’s only six and we’ll just go along with him quietly. That’s only his second run out of novice company and he’s won a Tingle Creek and a Haldon Gold Cup, which is what all those good ones I had before had done. His jumping is brilliant and that’s a big asset to him. We’ll possibly go to Ascot at the end of January for the Clarence House, but there’s one target, the Champion Chase, and that’s what we’ll aim at.”

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Hales has owned other high-class two-milers including One Man and Azertyuiop, but had never previously captured the Tingle Creek. He said of the victory: “It is a wonderful win. I'm absolutely delighted. He is only a six-year-old. I thought we had a chance. I thought if we win this today, we've beaten a really good horse. It is a pity Douvan didn't come or Altior wasn't fit because I like to compete against the best and we don't duck anybody. But he a beat a very good horse and all credit to him.”

Harry Cobden had given the winner a perfect ride, and said: “He's a lovely horse, the first day I sat on him was at Haydock over two and a half on heavy ground, he took a bit of my heart that day and he's got it all now.”

Tizzard appeared a little stunned at proceedings, but admitted that there were always concerns over the right trip for Fox Norton: “Whether he is a Ryanair horse or a King George horse I don’t know. We’ll think about it. I’m sure from now on he will go up in trip - we hankered on it all last year and it looks more like it every time we talk about it. We got in a bit tight at the last and the Paul Nicholls horse was away.”

It became a day of rare disappointment for the Tizzard team, when the decision to run Finian’s Oscar in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase backfired spectacularly. Outpaced on the flat and woefully ponderous at his fences, the five-year-old is clearly no two-mile chaser. Tailed off throughout the contest, he finished 61 lengths behind the impressive winner Sceau Royal and will not be seen over the minimum trip again. Along with Fox Norton, Tizzard will be stepping him up for the remainder of the campaign. Both could find themselves running over three-miles at Kempton during the Christmas period.

The Alan King-trained winner was foot-perfect throughout and zipped past Brain Power approaching the last fence. Henderson’s fella got in close and stumbled on landing, sending David Mullins to the turf, whilst Sceau Royal scooted clear for an 11-length success. North Hill Valley was the eventual runner-up in a dramatic renewal.

The winner is likely to be aimed at the Arkle, though the large galloping and undulating track may not play to his strengths as Sandown clearly did. He was laser-sharp over the obstacles and clearly that will be of benefit come March, though his ability to battle bravely up the final hill will prove just as crucial.

One horse that did battle bravely in testing conditions was Blaklion at Aintree. Punters latched on to the Twiston-Davies chaser, and he was sent-off a short-priced favourite for the Becher Chase. He proved himself the class act, travelling powerfully throughout before pulling clear for a nine-length success. The Last Samuri ran another cracker over the National fences to finish second. Both are likely to return for the ‘main event’ in April, though their respective handicap marks will make life awfully difficult.

A Bristol Blitz – It’s De Mai All The Way

Bristol De Mai romped to victory in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Simply devastating in the testing conditions, he led from start to finish, stretching effortlessly clear of his pursuers, hitting the line an incredible 57-lengths clear of runner-up Cue Card. It was a dream ride for Daryl Jacob who simply pointed the six-year-old in the right direction and then sat motionless for seven minutes. In his three racecourse victories, BDM has now amassed a cumulative winning margin of 110 lengths.

The winner has always been held in high regard by his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who said: “That was very good. I didn't have to worry about too much. I only had to worry about the last few fences and he jumped them well. We've had a brief chat and the idea would be the King George, the Cotswold Chase and then the Gold Cup. You might not get this ground (at Kempton), but we'll see.

“He goes out and has his own way of doing it. He has a big engine and can go faster than that. He's always worked fantastically well and he's a supreme horse. He's very much an Imperial Commander type - he's a big, strong, gorgeous horse. We were in a bit of a rush to get to the Gold Cup last year. He was ready, but I don't think he was at his best. From what he does at home you wouldn't think he's improved from last season, but he obviously has. He was beaten 20 lengths in the Gold Cup. It's a shame Sizing John isn't here so we could find out.”

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Owner Simon Munir was clearly thrilled with the victory and said: “That's absolutely amazing. It's wonderful. These are the days that one comes into racing for. Just speaking to Daryl and he's in a state of shock. He was saying he wanted to increase the pace. He thought everybody had fallen behind him. To win by 57 lengths is amazing. I thought it could be game over when he got in too tight two out, but he's a clever horse and he adjusts himself very well. The King George is what we're looking at.”

Though beaten out of sight, Cue Card did battle on bravely for second spot. Colin Tizzard looked a little shell-shocked, but gave an honest appraisal, saying: “The grey horse has run a marvellous race and galloped them all into the ground. He’s never come off the bridle really. I think he's (Cue Card) run on par with his other runs. He's just been beaten by a very good horse on the day. The winner blew the race away. He jumped round and galloped on and finished second. We'll go back home and see how he is.”

It’s tough to judge whether this was a below-par performance from the runner-up, as Bristol De Mai appears to do this to everyone at Haydock. It’s probably fair to say that he didn’t travel as well as he can. Harry Cobden was niggling away at him on the first circuit, and it appeared an effort to keep tabs on the winner. His jumping was solid throughout despite him being under pressure for much of the contest. It seems clear that his best days are now behind him. The Ascot Chase in February may be his last hope of further Grade One success. He has won the race twice and would be looking to emulate Monet’s Garden, in winning the race as a 12-year-old.

As for Bristol de Mai, all roads now lead to Kempton at Christmas. Despite having run 16 times over fences, this will be his debut at the track. He has won over fences at Sandown, though this will be more of a test of speed. He also needs to prove himself an elite chaser on a sounder surface. The King George will tell us whether this youngster is truly top-class, or rather a soft-ground bully. I for one, remain in the undecided camp.

Harry’s Game

Dan and Harry Skelton continue to make their mark, despite the big-guns beginning to unleash their major players.

Currently second in the trainers’ championship, the Warwickshire team made a fabulous start to the current campaign, and though realistic in their ambitions, will be hoping for further success, such as the promising performance from North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Ridden with supreme confidence by Harry Skelton, the imposing young chaser had the race won some distance from home. Cool and calm on top, Skelton met the last two fences on a perfect stride and the horse did the rest. He may not be a World beater, but this young chaser now has four wins to his name at Cheltenham, including last year’s Greatwood Hurdle. A fast run two-mile appears ideal, and there’s scope for plenty more improvement.

The way with which Harry goes about his business is testament to the professionalism of the Skelton’s. Completely immersed in all things Lodge Hill, Harry will be found working and schooling the equine team every day. A stylish, well-balanced young jockey (still only 28), he is particularly strong in a driving finish, low over the horse, getting every drop of effort from his mount. He shuns the limelight, despite himself lying second in the jockeys’ title race, instead praising big-brother Dan for supplying the quality ammunition.

It’s no secret that the Skelton’s are going places, but Harry is undoubtedly a vital component in the team’s success.

Another Harry who sees his stock rising at a rate of knots, is young Harry Cobden. Weather permitting, this coming Saturday he’ll be aboard chasing royalty in Cue Card. A regular these days for both Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls, and yet still just 19, this has been an incredible period for the young man from Somerset.

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Another that graduated from the pony racing circuit, Cobden has already won his fair share of prestigious races. Paul Nicholls entrusted him with Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle of 2015, despite his lack of experience. The then 7lb claimer didn’t disappoint, timing his challenge to perfection before pulling clear after the last.

A year later, the young jock was landing his first Grade One, when driving Irving to a thrilling victory in the Fighting Fifth, defeating Apple’s Jade by a nose. At the time Cobden said of the victory: “To win a Grade One is what dreams are made of and I’m grateful to Mr Nicholls and the owners for putting me on him. To put a 3lb claimer on, in a race like that, may not be the done thing in some eyes, but thankfully the boss has faith in me.”

The conditional jockeys title followed for the youngster, and those occasional ‘good rides’ have become a regular occurrence. He had a couple of victories at Cheltenham over the weekend. He was onboard Posh Trish for Nicholls in the listed mares’ bumper. And then rode Tizzard’s classy young hurdler, Slate House, to victory in the Supreme Novice Trial. He also came close to landing the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase aboard Vicente, rather ironically losing out to Paddy Brennan and Perfect Candidate.

On Saturday we’ll see if Paddy’s loss is Harry’s gain. Win or lose, there’s no doubting this young man has a bright future in the saddle.

You’d think a pair of upwardly mobile Harry’s would be enough for one article, but it would be unfair to leave out 23-year-old Harry Bannister, who is currently enjoying something of a purple patch. With four wins from his last eight rides, including a double at Southwell yesterday, this young man can do little wrong. Most of his opportunities are coming aboard horses trained by Harry Whittington (I know, hard to believe isn’t it), and a strike-rate of 22% is testament to just how well things are going this season.

But this wouldn’t be horse racing if several highs were not followed by a shattering low. And so it was at Cheltenham, when Whittington’s talented mare Glenmona, ridden by young Harry, stumbled in the back straight resulting in her death. Bannister will have been shaken by such a blow, but jockeys know just how quickly fortunes can change.

Despite the Cheltenham setback, this Harry double-act is clearly flourishing and let’s hope that there are many more successful days to come.

Some will feel that I missed a trick in not exploring in more depth, the achievements of Harry Fry in this piece, especially as he had a winner at Leicester on Sunday by the name of Old Harry Rocks. But this article was always intended to cover the emergence of young Harry’s in the saddle. And the trio profiled are certainly heading in the right direction.

Cobden call-up on Cue Card

Cue Card, Coneygree and Our Duke hit the headlines at the weekend, for all the wrong reasons.

And yesterday it was dear old Cue Card that again made the news, as the Tizzard team decided a change of jockey is required in the hope of resurrecting the chaser’s winning ways. Having hit the deck twice in his last three starts, Paddy Brennan has been asked to step-aside, and it will be young Harry Cobden that takes the reins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The 19-year-old has impressed in his short time in the saddle, and has been riding regularly for both Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard. This is a huge opportunity for the young man, and he is clearly thrilled to be given the chance. Speaking yesterday he said: “I schooled him this morning and he felt A1. I'm very much looking forward to riding him. It is a great opportunity for a young jockey to pick up a ride like that and the target is the Betfair Chase. I ride out for Colin every Wednesday and I know all the horses well. I've not really got any commitments in Graded races, so it will be nice riding a horse like that as these opportunities don't come around too often.”

There’s no doubting it’s tough on Paddy Brennan. He’s had some fabulous times on Cue Card, most notably the thrilling King George success of 2015, when getting up in the final strides to defeat the wonderful Vautour. Brennan will still ride for the Tizzard’s, but this will still be a blow for the jock.

Colin Tizzard spoke of the decision yesterday afternoon: “I spoke to Paddy on Monday and said I thought the horse deserved to have a change of rider as he has fallen twice out of the last three times. He said it was fair enough. It's not a big issue changing jockey as we do it all the time, but it might be on Cue Card because of his profile. It is a different set of hands on board, so we will see what happens.”

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The trainer added: “Harry might be available for two or three races, whereas a lot of the top jockeys are already on the best horses. I like the idea of having a younger man on him. I've known Harry all my life and he has got plenty of experience. He has ridden a lot of winners for us and he is a good young rider. I consulted Jean (Bishop, Cue Card's owner) about it and she is a very loyal person, but she thought the horse deserved a new rider. He (Cobden) will be scrutinised, no doubt, but getting on Cue Card when you are 19 years old, he should be chuffed.”

With Tizzard’s older statesman looking to land his fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock, the yard’s younger star was among 26 entries for the King George at Christmas. Thistlecrack won Kempton’s Christmas cracker last December, and is on course to attempt a repeat performance.

Speaking on the Jockey Club's Love The Jumps podcast a week ago, the Dorset trainer said: “We had him in first week in August, we're now nearly in November and we're just starting to go a bit faster with him. He's got a month of fast work and he'll be ready to run. He'll have a hurdle before we go in the King George because we can't really go there first time up. I feel his legs once a week now and someone else feels them every other day and they seem absolutely fine.”

Earlier this week Tizzard confirmed that the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury would act as Thistlecrack’s King George warm-up run. He took the race in 2015, and it would leave a gap of almost four weeks before that huge event at Kempton.

Tizzard also spoke of last year’s Gold Cup third, Native River. The seven-year-old is set for a light campaign, with another crack at Cheltenham’s Gold Cup the prime objective. He’ll not be seen until the new year, with connections keen to have him spot-on for the big day.

Might Bite, Sizing John, Douvan and Djakadam were other eye-catching entries for what may well prove to be a stellar renewal of the King George. Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite looks likely to head to Sandown for his seasonal debut on Sunday. The three-mile 188Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase appears the ideal starting point, giving the young chaser vital practice before taking on the ‘big guns’ over Christmas. The opportunity of having another run on a right-handed track would also have been on Henderson’s mind when choosing this as a pipe-opener.

Sizing John has the million-pound bonus on his agenda for this campaign. He’ll head for the Betfair Chase before a crack at the King George. The cheque will be handed over should he win both and then repeat his Gold Cup success at Cheltenham. Sounds easy enough.

Harry Cobden’s Blog: 6th April 2017

The last time I wrote was on the eve of Cheltenham and, while I loved the buzz of the Festival, I was disappointed not to get closer than Zankandar's seventh place in the Stayers' Hurdle.

But the races come thick and fast at this time of year, so I was off to Fontwell the day after the Gold Cup for a winning spin on a nice mare of Anthony Honeyball's called Ms Parfois. She's a good mare, and will definitely improve for another summer under her belt. She could be a Listed mare with a bit of luck.

Last Sunday at Taunton, I got a chance for Mr Tizzard aboard a horse called Valhalla. He'd actually run pretty well in some decent races through the winter, and really seemed to relish the quicker ground. This was my first time riding him, with the plan to make it if nobody else went on. We got a fairly soft lead and he saw it out very well. He's up six for that which will make things tougher but there could be another win in him before the season's out on top of the ground.

Getting up to date, and April has started really well with a lovely winner for Anthony at Uttoxeter and a double for the boss yesterday at Wincanton. The trip up to the Midlands was worthwhile as I got to sit on a fine big horse called Indian Brave. He'd come to the Honeyball yard from Neil Mulholland, and this was his first run for his new stable and his first win. Despite still being quite gawky even on his seventh career start, I was always happy at the back of the field and he picked up his main rival - the odds-on Bardd - comfortably even though we made a bit of a hash of the last. He's got a workable rating (121) and looks to have a really nice future when he goes chasing.

Wincanton must be my luckiest track, as Matt was telling me I've now got 20 wins from 49 rides there! That's after a double from three rides yesterday afternoon. I guess I was expected to win on the 4/9 chance Diamond Guy, though he is only my second winner in a National Hunt Flat race. He couldn't have done it more easily, coasting clear by almost a distance. Who knows what he beat, but he definitely has an engine and may just be the pick of the boss's bumper horses this season. As easily as he won today, he'll be a much better horse on winter ground.

Less predictable perhaps was the performance of San Satiro in a small field novices' hurdle earlier in the afternoon. He was only the third favourite of four in the race, though you'd never have known it the ease with which he won. The margin of two lengths doesn't really reflect his superiority and he was well on top at the finish. Again, the quick ground was not really to his advantage, so he can be rated a bit better than the bare margin and could be a fair animal next term.

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THIS WEEK

Moving on, I'm really looking forward to my first ride in the National this weekend, and to the Aintree meeting generally. I had three rides at the meeting last season and I'm really hoping to go one better than the second place Virak and I recorded in the Listed three mile handicap chase.

I ride Old Guard in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle this afternoon. The former Greatwood Hurdle winner has been out of form most of this season but did show some of his old spark when a close up seventh of 25 in the Coral Cup. In truth, he ought to be outclassed in this field, but there is good prize money all the way down so it's worth rolling the dice.

Ultragold is an interesting runner in the Topham. Colin's horses are just starting to fire again and this lad wasn't beaten far in the Grand Annual. If he gets a clear round in, he'll give a good account of himself having won over this sort of trip a couple of years ago.

On Saturday, I'm really excited to be involved in the greatest race of them all, the Randox Health Grand National, aboard my old mate, Just A Par. The ten-year-old won a veterans' chase for me last time out and, if you think that's not good enough form, keep in mind that Pineau De Re did the exact same thing when he won the National in 2014.

The problem for me is that Just A Par goes to the sale after racing tonight (Thursday) and it will be up to the new owners whether they want to stick with his current rider, i.e. me!, or choose their own. I've got everything crossed that I get a spin in the big one but will just have to wait and see how it goes.

CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS' TITLE

I've moved to 54 winners for the season thanks to that Wincanton double yesterday, and with time running out to the end of the season I'm twenty clear of my good friend, Dave Noonan who has 34 on the scoresheet. With three weeks left to the end of the season, it's probably over as a contest now but I'm keen to keep my head down and ride a few more winners before the campaign is up.

That's all from me this time. I'll be back at the end of the month with a review of what has been a really exciting campaign. Speak to you then.

- Harry

Harry Cobden’s Blog: 10th March 2017

Wow. Has it really been four weeks since I last wrote? Time flies...

It's actually been a fairly quiet month, but I've still managed to put another five wins on the board. They were kicked off by The Geegeez Geegee for, as the name suggests, a syndicate created out of visitors to this website!

It was really great to ride a winner in the geegeez colours and with the geegeez logos on, too. Geegee jumped class that day and was always going to win. He just dossed a little on the run in, giving a hint to his moody side. That less cooperative part of his game was in full evidence when he didn't go a yard for me back at Fontwell a fortnight later.

I knew my fate pretty early, and no amount of pushing and shoving was going to change his mind. He's probably going to be best fresh so might be interesting again after a little break.

Zarkandar is one of the yard favourites at Paul's, and I was lucky enough to get the leg up in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock. He was actually rated 168 in his prime and, though now on a mark of just 147, he's still showing plenty of zest. The handicapper raised him four to 151 for that, and he's headed to the Stayers' Hurdle next. With Noel Fehily booked to ride Unowhatimeanharry, there's a chance I'll keep the ride in the Stayers', which would be a fantastic opportunity. He's going well at home and might surprise a few people with a big effort.

Things stepped up a notch for me last Saturday with a nice double at Newbury, the first leg of which was Just A Par. The old boy stuck it out well to win the veterans' handicap chase, and was well on top at the line. I think he's going to the sales now and will be offered with an entry to run in the Grand National. He's gone up six pounds for the win last week but, because the National weights were already published, he can still run at Aintree off 146, so might be nicely handicapped! All he does is jumps and stays.

Then, in the last race on the card, I managed to break my bumper hoodoo on Anthony Honeyball's Sam Brown. I say hoodoo because this was my first National Hunt Flat winner, at the 26th time of asking! Sam is quite highly rated now - I think his RPR would be 130 if he was in the Champion Bumper. They went a good gallop and it rode like a good bumper. He repelled three separate challenges through the race, and it was more probably a fair bit more impressive than it looked.

The Sam Brown form has been franked in the last couple of days by Lalor and Daylami Kirk, who ran 1-2 on Thursday at Wincanton. Lalor was second to Sam Brown when Sam won his debut, and Daylami Kirk was well back that day. I rode him both times. I'd say he's a nice novice hurdle prospect for next season, and that was a good step forward this week.

Coole Cody got his head in front at the fifth time of asking. He's a very nice horse that was only beaten three lengths by Neon Wolf on his second start. He needs to settle better and if he does, could be a smart novice chaser next season. He'll probably also improve for better ground. He's definitely one to keep on the right side.

Saturday

I've got four rides at Hereford this afternoon. My best chance might be Pearls Legend (4.00). He was fifth in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last March, and has dropped eight pounds since then. He ran better last time on ground he'd have hated, finishing third, but still got dropped three pounds. Now on 130, I can either make it or take a lead, and if we go quick that will suit me fine.

Castarnie (1.40) is a little in and out. He needs to jump better than he has been and, if he does, he's got a squeak.

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Shinooki (2.15) looks high enough in the handicap just now but he'll like conditions, so if he brings his Fakenham form another win is not out of the question.

Similar comments apply to Muffins For Tea (4.35). He's not obviously well weighted, but has a bit of a chance having run well here in a novice hurdle two back.

 

Next week

I'm down to ride Allchilledout at Chepstow on Monday. He hated the ground the last day and the track would have been sharp enough, but he's got good form round Chepstow, and should run his race.

Then it's Cheltenham. I have a few possibles though I won't know final running plans until nearer the time. Some might not get in and some might be ridden by other people! But this is how it looks at the moment.

I have one ride on Tuesday, in the Ultima Handicap Chase. I'm on a horse called Viconte Du Noyer, who won over a quarter mile further here at the BetVictor (Open) meeting. Ignore his last run, where he put two feet in a ditch in the Welsh National. He's actually only three pounds higher than his November win here, so has some sort of chance.

I can also pass on a good word for Romain de Senam. He galloped well the other day, and goes to the Novices' Handicap Chase (closing race on day one) in great fettle.

On Thursday, I'm scheduled to ride Mr Mix in the Pertemps. In truth, he's probably going to struggle a bit in this rarefied company, but he's unexposed at the trip and we're hoping that brings about some improvement.

Later that afternoon, with luck I'll get another chance on Zarkandar. The Stayers' is obviously a very hot race but, as I said earlier, I quietly fancy him to run into the first four or five.

Brio Conti is entered for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' race on Friday. He has a hell of a chance if he scrapes him, but that looks unlikely at this stage, sadly. I'd be hopeful of picking up a ride though, fingers crossed..

 

SEASONAL SCORES

I'm up to 48 winners now for the season, closing in a maiden 50. That would be amazing but I'm certainly not counting my chickens. Dave Noonan is up to 30 now, and my closest rival, with Jamie Bargary on 29. It would be amazing if I could get a winner this weekend and then make 50 at Cheltenham next week, but that's probably a pretty wild dream! We'll keep kicking and hope to get those two I'm chasing before too long.

Until next time, I wish you the best of luck at Cheltenham next week, and let's hope all goes safely and well...

- Harry 

Harry Cobden’s Blog: 10th February 2017

Hello again, nearly the middle of February and Betfair weekend at Newbury, doesn't time fly?

Since I last blogged, I've ridden a couple more winners, the most recent being the most significant. Diego Du Charmil's victory in the Scottish County Hurdle was my 75th overall, which means I can no longer claim a conditional's allowance. It took me 23 months and 377 rides, and I'm told that's a strike rate of 19.9%, which is pretty good I guess!

Of course, I have to be thankful to many people, most importantly all the owners who have continued to support me, and also especially Paul Nicholls, Anthony Honeyball, Michael Blake, Ron Hodges and Colin Tizzard, all of whom have had enough faith to leg me up on their stable charges. Thank you!

Back to Diego du Charmil, the Fred Winter winner at last year's Festivaal, and it was a really nice performance in a good race. He loves top of the ground but has gone up to 149 now, which might just anchor him for a while. Still, it would be no surprise to see him make another trip north, to Ayr for Scottish Champion Hurdle in April.

A couple of weeks earlier - has it really been that long? - Virak ran well in defeat in the Peter Marsh Chase on very soft ground at Haydock. He's been dropped another five pounds to 147, which is almost a stone lower than when he ran second in the same race last year, and he must be getting well handicapped now. Soft ground and three miles plus is what he needs.

Anthony Honeyball's Cresswell Breeze is a tough little mare that I rode to finish second in a Listed Chase towards the end of January. She was beaten far enough by Desert Queen, a very smart horse on her day, but nicely clear of some decent mares in behind. This was probably a career best effort for her, and she is entered at Catterick for a Grand National trial on Monday.

At a lower level, Madame Lafite was surely going to win when brought down by the only horse in front of her two out. Johnny Portman's five year old is an ex-flat racer who was having her first start in a handicap: she's a nice genuine mare who will win races if her confidence is not affected by this spill.

Ibis du Rheu is another Festival handicap winner I steered since I last wrote. He won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' race, and ran a big race here when third in a quality Cheltenham novices' handicap chase. The race is normally a good pointer to the Festival handicaps, and my lad got hampered at a crucial stage.

I wasn't overly hard on him once his chance had gone but he ran on well. He'll have Festival targets off this same mark, 146, so with slightly better ground likely, he goes with a fighting chance just seven pounds higher than last year's win at the big meeting.

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One who was perhaps a little disappointing on Trials Day is Old Guard. He showed a little bit in midfield behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle, but was beaten 18 lengths by the line. He could conceivably be one for something like the Coral Cup on better ground, though 150 is high enough in the weights. He has to prove he's the same horse that won the Greatwood and International Hurdles in the early part of last season.

I'm developing a soft spot for doughty stayer, Royal Salute. Since picking up the ride two starts back, which has coincided with the horse going up in trip and tackling softer groun, he's won both times. He ran possibly his best race yet when comfortably winning a Plumpton marathon on heavy. He's been nudged up five to 119, which seems fair enough, and he could still be progressing when faced with stamina-sapping conditions. His trainer has half an eye on the Eider Chase, over four miles at Newcastle! Sadly, he's unlikely to make the cut.

At the top level of race riding, where I aspire to be, it's about getting your head down, working hard, and making as few mistakes as possible. But we're all human, and I have to admit that my ride on Sweeping Beauty was not my finest hour. I got trapped wide and far enough back, but she was game enough to run on into third on the Lingfield all weather track. She was a touch better than the bare finishing position, and sold cheaply for just £12,000 at last week's Tattersall's mixed sale, which should turn out to be an absolute bargain.

 

FUTURE ENTRIES

Looking forward, today I ride Bears Rails for Colin Tizzard. He stayed on well over an extended three miles last time and I'd be more worried about the eight pound hike in the handicap than the half mile step up in trip. Also, I can't claim the three I had when he won last time now, so he's effectively up eleven, but on the positive side, he's still a relatively lightly raced seven year old so may have more to offer. I'll probably be front rank, but there are a few others who can race handily, so we'll play it by ear. I'd be no more than hopeful in what will be a gruelling race.

 

Looking to the weekend and I have been jocked up on a couple of nice horses at Warwick tomorrow. I still don't know if they'll run yet, so we'll have to see. Frodon is a smart horse but whether the two miles of the Kingmaker is enough of a test for him I'm not sure. Half an hour later, Vibrato Valtat may attempt to defy top weight in a handicap chase. He's two from two at Warwick, including when winning the 2015 Kingmaker, but has yet to prevail over this half mile longer trip despite running well in defeat on a number of occasions.

On Monday, I'm down to ride Dragoon Guard for one of the geegeez.co.uk syndicates. He's been a hard horse to win with, but I understand he's had a wind operation since his last run. He shouldn't mind any ease in the ground - he has a quite pronounced knee action - so if his wind is reasonably sound he'll hopefully be in the mix.

SEASONAL SCORES

I'm up to 43 winners now for the season. Jamie Bargary and Dave Noonan are both on 29, and there are roughly 11 weeks left of the season. My first - and only real - target is to try to win the conditional jockeys' title, but I'd really love to get the seven winners I need for 50 in my first full season riding. I'm just about on track, but things change fast in this game so I'll keep kicking!

Until next time...

- Harry 

Stat of the Day, 30th January 2017

Saturday's Result :

3.20 Uttoxeter : Kayfleur @ 5/2 BOG fell at 2/1 Held up in touch, tracked leaders 7th, went 2nd 5 out until outpaced after next, 3rd and looked held when fell 3 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

3.50 Plumpton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding is in top form at present, finishing 161231 in his last six outings, of which 61231 is his record since the switch to chasing. Conditions look set to suit him today, as from that 2/5 record over fences, he is 2/3 over soft ground and was a winner last time out a fortnight ago over this course and distance on similar ground under today's jockey at this same grade.

Further assistance comes in the retention of the blinkers he wore for the first time during that race and he seeks to improve an already very impressive record of trainer Anthony Honeyball, whose NH handicappers are 95/454 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2010 and a straight £10 bet on each of them (no filtering!) would have netted you a cool £2040 profit at an ROI of some 44.9%.

That's just from blindly backing all of Anthony's handicappers, but if you wanted to reduce the number of bets, here are nine (yes, just nine!) profitable angles for you to consider, all of which are relevant/pertinent to today's race...

  • 5-10 yr olds are 92/418 (22%) for 225.1pts (+53.8%)
  • those rated (OR) 85 to 135 are 90/384 (23.4%) for 196.3pts (+51.1%)
  • males are 58/280 (20.7%) for 142.3pts (+50.8%)
  • chasers are 36/189 (19.1%) for 53.7pts (+28.4%)
  • at Class 4, it's 44/183 (24%) for 84.7pts (+46.3%)
  • using a jockey's 3lb claim : 24/102 (23.5%) for 17.2pts (+16.8%)
  • on Soft ground : 22/87 (25.3%) for 77.5pts (+89%)
  • those ridden by the talented Harry Cobden are 20/78 (25.6%) for 43.8pts (+56.1%)
  • and those who ran in the previous 6 to 15 days are 17/74 (23%) for 57.2pts (+77.3%)

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.45pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 3.50 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Stat of the Day, 30th January 2017

Saturday's Result :

3.20 Uttoxeter : Kayfleur @ 5/2 BOG fell at 2/1 Held up in touch, tracked leaders 7th, went 2nd 5 out until outpaced after next, 3rd and looked held when fell 3 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

3.50 Plumpton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding is in top form at present, finishing 161231 in his last six outings, of which 61231 is his record since the switch to chasing. Conditions look set to suit him today, as from that 2/5 record over fences, he is 2/3 over soft ground and was a winner last time out a fortnight ago over this course and distance on similar ground under today's jockey at this same grade.

Further assistance comes in the retention of the blinkers he wore for the first time during that race and he seeks to improve an already very impressive record of trainer Anthony Honeyball, whose NH handicappers are 95/454 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2010 and a straight £10 bet on each of them (no filtering!) would have netted you a cool £2040 profit at an ROI of some 44.9%.

That's just from blindly backing all of Anthony's handicappers, but if you wanted to reduce the number of bets, here are nine (yes, just nine!) profitable angles for you to consider, all of which are relevant/pertinent to today's race...

  • 5-10 yr olds are 92/418 (22%) for 225.1pts (+53.8%)
  • those rated (OR) 85 to 135 are 90/384 (23.4%) for 196.3pts (+51.1%)
  • males are 58/280 (20.7%) for 142.3pts (+50.8%)
  • chasers are 36/189 (19.1%) for 53.7pts (+28.4%)
  • at Class 4, it's 44/183 (24%) for 84.7pts (+46.3%)
  • using a jockey's 3lb claim : 24/102 (23.5%) for 17.2pts (+16.8%)
  • on Soft ground : 22/87 (25.3%) for 77.5pts (+89%)
  • those ridden by the talented Harry Cobden are 20/78 (25.6%) for 43.8pts (+56.1%)
  • and those who ran in the previous 6 to 15 days are 17/74 (23%) for 57.2pts (+77.3%)

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.45pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 3.50 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Harry Cobden’s Blog: 20th Jan 2017

My second blog of the new year, and hopefully a few more interesting horses to tell you about. Let's start at the start...

Two Saturdays ago I had three rides for Colin Tizzard, the pick of which might turn out to be Lillington. The son of Westerner was having his first try in handicap company and beat all bar the winner there. It shouldn't be too long before he goes one better. A horse with a similar name, Cucklington, made his debut over fences the same day and ran only all right. He's back on Saturday in a similar race at Taunton, with a nice racing weight, and should come on plenty for that first experience of the big obstacles.

The following day I managed to snare another winner for Mr Tizzard. Bears Rails is a nice horse, although he has a few ideas of his own maybe! With blinkers on for essentially the first time (ignoring the void race he ran in on Boxing Day), I gave him a forward ride around Fontwell - which would have been tight enough for him - and he jumped like a pro, keeping on well in the end. He's still relatively young at seven, and has already won three chases, so could have a bit more to come later in the season.

Reilly's Minor was a horse I thought might be worth following, and I wouldn't give up on him just yet. He was stepping up a full three-quarters of a mile at Catterick and just didn't seem to get home. If dropping back in trip to around 2m6f ideally on a left-handed course, he can get back on the winning track.

More recently, I notched another winner for the very lucky Anthony Honeyball Racing Club with Royal Salute. Those enthusiastic owners have enjoyed eight winners from 21 runners this season, with another nine places! This lad is a thorough stayer and he put that to good use over three and a quarter miles of Plumpton's soft turf on Monday. He won going away in the end, and he only does as little as he can get away with. As a result he may still be half a stride ahead of the handicapper, and all he does is stays. That was his third win since April last year.

Another who may have gone a couple of furlongs too far was Coole Cody, who probably also bumped into one in Harry Fry's Over To Sam. Cody will hopefully drop back to around two and a half miles and is capable of winning a novice event somewhere before facing his handicap mark.

Although I was only fourth on him, I was quite taken with As De Fer yesterday. He is slow enough but stays very well. I tried to make it but couldn't lay up with a pace that was too fast but, having got outpaced, Anthony's horse was closing again at the finish. He could go close over a trip with a bit of soft ground.

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Finally, Monsieur Co was obviously lucky to win, Harry Fry's horse coming down at the last with the race at his mercy. But our lad hasn't been in that long and should improve a fair bit for the run. Saying that, he still made quite hard work of this.

As well as my boss, Paul Nicholls, I've been lucky enough to have ridden a fair bit for Colin Tizzard in recent weeks. He's got some serious horses in the yard this season and is a very easy-going man to work for.

I ride Robinsfirth for him this afternoon in a hot novices' handicap chase. An eight year old son of Flemensfirth (how did you guess?), he's not had much racing and this will be only his eighth race. He's well regarded at home and should run very well if putting in a clear round, with the step up in trip expected to suit.

Colin runs his 'talking horse', Alary, in the Peter Marsh on Saturday, and I think it's nuts that the French import is so short for the race. Mind you, he needs to be winning that if he's to justify a pretty skinny price for the Gold Cup!

I'm due to ride Virak, who has a right chance, that race. I'll probably be handy, and he was second in this race last year off a seven pound higher mark. A bit of cut is ideal, which he should get, and I'm really looking forward to the ride.

I also ride Irving in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Trial. If he can repeat his Fighting Fifth win he'd almost be the one to beat, but he was disappointing twice before that so definitely needs to put his best foot forward again.

I'm up to 41 winners in the Conditional Jockeys' Championship race now. Jamie Bargary has 27, the same as Dave Noonan, and they are sharing second spot. With more than three months left in the season, I'm not counting my chickens just yet. We all know that you're only ever one tumble away from a long layoff, so we'll keep on pushing.

I've now only got two winners left on my claim, with a career total of 73, so with luck by the time I speak to you next I'll have ridden it out. I guess that's when the hard work really starts!

- Harry

Harry Cobden “Conditionally Speaking” 3rd January 2017

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all gorged yourselves on turkey and the trimmings while us jockeys have been on the usual diet of gruel and water!

Quite a lot has been happening since my last blog, what with it being a busier time over the festive period with lots of rides to share around. Saying that, I've only had four for the boss, but it's been a case of quality over quantity there.

One of the rides for Mr Nicholls was on the smart hurdler, Mr Mix. He won the Pertemps Qualifier on Boxing Day at Wincanton (one of the lads has dubbed it 'Wincobden' (!), as I've ridden 16 winners from 36 rides there) off a mark of 139. He probably did it a little better than the winning margin of three-quarters of a length suggests: having got hampered at the top of the hill, I had a lovely run down the inner and when he hit the front he just dossed a bit. That may be just as well as it could keep him a stride ahead of the handicapper with luck, and I'd be hopeful there's a bit more in the tank. He's a very nice horse who is now qualified for the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.

If Mr Mix was the Boxing Day high I didn't have to wait long to be brought back down to earth with a bump. 35 minutes later I rode a mare called Antarctica de Thaix. She'd been left in the lead at the third fence, and was cantering a distance clear before just crumpling on landing at the third last, giving me no chance. I felt very sorry for the owners, but they were quite calm and understanding.

There was still time on the same day to get stuck in a ditch when a melee ensued in a handicap chase which had to be declared void when none of the horses managed to complete; and to ride a promising sort in the closing bumper. Johanos was his name, and I think he will win a novice hurdle in due course. He's a big scopy type who definitely wants more of a trip, and could be one to look out for at a price given his trainer, Nigel Hawke, isn't the most high profile handler.

Sadly, I was on the deck again the next day, as Richard Woollacott's Millanisi Boy was just backing out of it having run a fair race to that point in a decent three mile handicap hurdle. He's likely to go novice chasing now, and might be worth a second glance if the ground comes up heavy.

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My last winner of 2016 was for Warren Greatrex. Warren has been looking around for 'best available' after both of his main stable jockeys, Harry Bannister and Gavin Sheehan, have suffered fractures. On this occasion, I rode Reilly's Minor in a Taunton handicap. He'll defintiely stay further and could be ten pounds better when going left-handed (hangs notably left). He runs in the Cole Harden colours, and should win again now he's got his head in front.

My last ride of the old year was on board Lucy Wadham's Game On. He is another big scopy type, by Gamut, and looks capable of going close in a novice hurdle.

Perhaps the nicest horse I've ridden since my last blog is Robinsfirth, who did it really well in a fair beginners' chase on New Year's Day. He's a lovely jumper, travelled like a dream, and stayed on very well. He'd already been given a mark of 135 ahead of this effort and might be a candidate for the novices' handicap chase at the Festival, depending on his revised rating.

He's a big unit - at least 17'2 - and is pretty unexposed after two years off the track. He is a very nice prospect and definitely one for your Geegeez Tracker.

Earlier in the afternoon, I finished second on Michael Blake's Coole Cody. He is a free going type and he travelled really well. I thought I was going to give the winner a run for his money but he just got a little outpaced in the last furlong. He might pay for this performance with the handicapper but, for five grand, the owners look to have bagged themselves a bargain.

In the conditional jockeys' title race, I'm now on 38 winners. Dave Noonan is on 26, Jamie Bargary 25, and Harry Bannister 22.

Here's to more good winners for all of us in 2017.

- Harry Cobden

Harry Cobden “Conditionally Speaking” 15th December 2016

Being fortunate enough to be attached to Paul Nicholls’ powerful stable is a blessing for a conditional rider like myself, but the return of Sam Twiston-Davies after his injury has meant the boss has had to shuffle his pack, and I’ve had a quieter time of it in the past fortnight.

Despite that, there have still been some nice horses, not least of which is the highly progressive Tobefair. Mrs Hamer’s six-year-old by Central Park gave me a great feel at Chepstow in a competitive handicap hurdle, eventually winning by two lengths. He’s a really nice big chasing type who has won his last five races now, moving from an opening rating of 81 to his current mark of 126! I think he could still be ahead of the handicapper over hurdles, but I can also definitely see him winning a couple of novice chases in time.

On the same Chepstow card, I rode Daylami Kirk, a 33/1 outsider, trained by Ron hodges. He’s a huge lad – he stands at about 17'2 – and this striking son of Daylami really impressed me. This was his debut and we were only headed in the last half a furlong: there is undoubtedly more to come from this horse as he was green throughout, and I'd be confident in saying that he will run a tidy race next time. Looking ahead, a fellow with his size, I'd imagine his future could be quite rosy over fences in years to come.

In keeping with the way it has been in recent times, All Set To Go provided me with another Saturday win last weekend – my third week in a row where Saturday has been ‘winner day’.

Rated 102 when last seen on the flat, he showed a nice turn of foot after the last in this decent Doncaster handicap hurdle. All the way around he jumped and travelled great and won a little cosily, although one thing I will say is the handicapper hasn't taken any chances with a revised mark of 146.

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A couple of hours later, my old mate Cliffs Of Dover proved as tough as ever showing some real class in the process. He travelled and jumped beautifully as I made the running and, jumping the fourth last I was about 15 lengths clear. I managed to get a breather into him after the third last so, as one of Joseph O’Brien’s came within a few lengths of us after the last, my lad was firmly in command, though he did finish quite tired. He’s likely to be push higher than his current perch of 140 when reassessed, and he's one of the highest rated juveniles in the country. Surely he’s entitled to a crack at the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival now.

I ride Royal Native for Anthony Honeyball this afternoon. There aren’t too many secrets with this chap, who was a bit unlucky to come down last time in a better race. The drop in grade combined with a return to his last winning mark and a testing track mean he’s well suited to conditions and I’m hopeful of a good spin round.

Looking further ahead, I’m waiting to see what I might ride at the weekend. Modus is a possible in the last race at Ascot, a valuable handicap hurdle over two miles. He’s gone up a few pounds for two narrow defeats in his last two starts, but remains in good form.

And a bit further on than that, I can pass on a strong word for Amour De Nuit. A smart flat horse, rated as high as 106 for Sir Mark Prescott, he could make his debut in a maiden hurdle at Taunton on Monday. He’s schooled brilliantly and, though he may want further in due course, he ought to be capable of winning first time up.

Even through what has been a quiet spell for me, my tally is up to 35 winners for the season, putting me 13 winners clear in the conditional jockeys’ title. As I always say, though, you’re only ever one tumble away from sitting a few months out, so there will be no complacency in this corner!

Until next time,

- Harry

Harry Cobden “Conditionally Speaking” 1st December 2016

Last week was my quietest for some time. But what it lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality. Specifically, I had my first ride in a Grade 1 and, as you may know, it was a winner.

I found out on Thursday afternoon that I'd be riding Irving in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on the Saturday. It's a two miler that has been a stepping stone for Champion Hurdlers like Punjabi and Binocular in recent seasons, and my mount was the winner of the race two years ago when he saw off a field including Aurore d'Estruval and Arctic Fire.

Obviously, I was looking forward to riding in a Grade 1, and pretty excited. But, to be completely honest, I didn't know how he'd run, and had no great expectations. When Paul [Nicholls] and I discussed how to ride him, I suggested we try to drop him in, handy enough, come with a run turning in, and go from there.

Paul agreed but suggested I call Nick Scholfield, Irving's regular jockey who was riding three for the team at Newbury, for some advice. Nick just said, "you'll know if you're going to go close after three hurdles - from the feel he gives you. If he's travelling you've a chance".

Heading up to the races, I wasn't really nervous. In fact, I slept most of the way up there, letting my dad do the driving! As we got close, I did a bit of last minute homework: I already knew what everyone else was planning to do, the form, pace, and so on, but just wanted to go over it one more time. To be honest, I just treated it like any other race. If you overthink these things, they can start to go wrong, can't they?

The jockeys were a little slow into the paddock before the race but as I got out there, I could see that the owners, one of the Axom syndicates, were mob-handed, about 30 of them! They'd all made the effort to travel north, and I hoped they'd be rewarded with a solid run.

Almost as soon as I arrived into the centre of the throng, the bell went for the jockeys to leg up, but it was obvious there was a great buzz of excitement among the owners.

It was a funny race tactically. My plan, as I've said, was to sit third or fourth just off the leaders, but things didn't pan out that way, and I was quickly on to Plan B.

They seemed to go a serious lick early, with Hidden Cyclone in his usual pace-pushing style, and at one stage down the back I got a bit detached from the main players. I didn't panic, and was nudging and nurdling, just trying to coax the old boy into it and keep him interested.

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Having gone a good clip for the first mile and a half, the leaders steadied it up a touch turning in which gave me the chance to get back in amongst them. When Petit Mouchoir came down three out, Irving seemed to find another gear and I found myself in front over the second last. Despite not meeting the final flight very well - actually, we walked through it! - we'd still booted a length and a half clear on the landing side, and just held on at the line from Apple's Jade, who rallied late on. Jack Kennedy, on board the runner up, said he thought I had nicked first run, but I wouldn't be so sure. His mare seemed to just take her time to warm up, and if Irving had jumped the last better, I think we'd have won a shade more cosily.

In any case, as we passed the line, I wasn't certain I'd won it. I thought 60/40 I'd held on, but it had been the same at Sandown on the last day of last season, and I called that one wrong, so I sat tight this time around! As you can imagine, I was delighted when it was confirmed that Irving had won, my first Grade 1 ride was a winner in the prestigious Fighting Fifth.

After the race, the owners made a tremendous amount of noise, celebrating their second win in the race. Mr Nicholls was also delighted - as it turned out, it was his only winner of the day, a very rare event for Team Ditcheat.

Unfortunately there wasn't too much celebrating for me, as I was riding at Leicester on Sunday. I did manage to have a quiet glass with my valet at the Belfry... well, it would have been quiet but for the three hen do's tearing up the place!

I'm not sure where next for Irving. He's had his problems, but seems fine after his big win, and Paul will weigh up his options in the coming weeks. There are no firm plans, though looking through his previous form, the Kingwell Hurdle would be a possible target at this stage.

And that was about the size of it last week. I was second on Unify at Leicester, where I might have won on another day, and I was second again yesterday on Mulcahys Hill behind a pretty streetwise rival from Paul Morgan's yard.

A couple of jockey notices. My good mate and rival in the Conditional Jockeys' title race, Harry Bannister, has unfortunately suffered a nasty arm injury. It looks like he'll be out for a few weeks nursing that one, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Which is not to say I won't be trying to bag a few more winners before he's back!

On a happier note, we were all delighted to see Sam Twiston-Davies back in the saddle yesterday for the first time since he bruised his spleen. Sam's been sorely missed at the yard and, though I've been able to gain some invaluable experience - and ride some nice winners - in his absence, it's great to see him back around the place.

I'm jocked up on an interesting one on Friday at Exeter for Roger Charlton. Best known for training flat horses, Lady Rothschild's Tambour is very well bred and I'm looking forward to a good spin. I may also renew the partnership with Thegreendalerocket, on whom I won at Chepstow five weeks ago. It's another half mile this time, but all he does is jump and stay so hopefully he'll go close again.

Until next week…

- Harry

Harry Cobden “Conditionally Speaking” 22nd November 2016

Last week was another good week for me, which started just down the road...

Wincanton is my local track, and one of my favourite tracks, too. It once again provided me with a winner, in the form of Brelan D'As. He had some really smart form in France, and clearly couldn't have been right on his one run at Exeter in heavy ground back in February. He is a different horse this term though, and the way he settled and jumped impressed me tremendously. I certainly don't think he will ever see a handicap mark of 130 again!

That was a first winner for me in the famous green and gold silks for Mr McManus, to whom I'm very grateful for the opportunity to ride for over the past couple of weeks.

On Friday at Haydock, Capitaine stepped up in to Listed company. Unfortunately he was keen throughout and the Hobson horse, Tahira, had a very easy lead from the front. That one probably stole the race turning in, but Capitaine kept on well up the straight to finish second. It was a likeable performance, and I think there's definitely more to come from this striking four-year-old.

Politologue is a big imposing chasing type by Poliglote. A Listed novice hurdle winner at two miles last season, this was his first time over fences, though you would never have known the way he travelled and jumped brilliantly. Every time I came to a fence he would take a length out of his field where he jumped so great. Turning into the straight he was cruising and when I let out an inch of rein he took off. It must have been some performance as he earned quotes of 20/1 for the RSA [top priced 25/1, Ed.].

In a week of firsts for big owners, it was my first winner for Mr Hales, who is a huge supporter at Ditcheat and has had so many good horses over the years, the most notable ones being Neptune Collonges, who won the 2012 Grand National, Al Ferof, Azertyuiop, and of course One Man.

There are no immediate plans for Politologue at this stage, but the RSA would be the obvious seasonal target. I wouldn’t be thinking he’s only a mud-loving horse either; he ought to be just as effective on better ground.

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I also rode Brio Conti in a decent novices’ hurdle. He’d fallen at the first on his first start over timber, where he just over-jumped and landed a little steep and found himself on the floor. This time, Brio was quite keen throughout, and he was winging every hurdle which wasn't helpful when I was trying to hold onto him! This horse gave me a really good feel and I think he will make a very nice chaser in turn, but not before he picks up a nice Saturday handicap hurdle or two first.

In the big handicap hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, I was lucky to pick up the ride on Yala Enki. He’s a relentless galloper who just kept on keeping on, eventually finishing third. I think the plan is to go back over the bigger obstacles now – he’s already a dual chase winner in France and top class handicaps over fences is likely to be his next challenge.

It was very good of Clive Hitchings, who also owns Virak down at Ditcheat, to get me the ride when his regular jockey became unavailable.

I'm not booked to ride anything for the weekend at the moment, but hopefully I'll have a couple of nice rides on Friday and Saturday. They might include Sweeping Beauty, a bumper horse that is entered up at Doncaster on Sunday. She’s a filly I rode last time at Huntingdon over this sort of trip, and she really impressed me that day. I think she should go very close if she runs.

One who is going very nicely at home, as you might expect from a horse that cost £270,000 at the Goff’s Aintree sale, is Give Me A Copper. Owned, amongst others, by Sir Alex Ferguson and Jeremy Kyle, this son of Presenting is from the same family as Cheltenham Festival winner, Copper Bleu, and is a full brother to the smart Presenting Copper. Give Me A Copper has three entries this weekend, and he might just be one for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival [for which he is a top-priced 25/1, Ed.]. He has to win his novice hurdle first, though!

Another two winners for me this week mean I’m now on 31 wins in the Conditional Jockeys’ Title race. Harry Bannister pulled one back yesterday and is on 20 now, the same as David Noonan, and Jamie Bargary was also among the Monday winners, moving on to 17 for the season. I’ve got clear daylight at the moment, but we all know that things can change very quickly so I’m certainly not taking anything for granted.

Until next week…

- Harry