Harry Cobden Profile
|Born||Nov 05, 1998|
Despite a broken neck early in his career, the 22-year-old has already seen a great amount of success and surely has a great career ahead of him.
The wise-beyond-his-years Harry Cobden skipped his GCSE English exam to ride a 33/1 winner and made the right choice to back his own ability in the saddle.
By the age of 19, he had been named stable jockey for top jumps trainer Paul Nicholls and claimed a first Cheltenham Festival win on Kilbricken Storm.
Hardy Cobden has overcome a broken neck to enter the select group of riders achieving a hundred winners a season and now ranks in the top three jockeys over jumps with Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes.
Few would bet against this farmer's son from ploughing a furrow as Champion Jockey in seasons to come, backed by the weight of the Nicholls' operation.
The farmer's son
Growing up in Somerset, a hotbed of national hunt racing, it seems Cobden was always destined for a life in the saddle. He was raised on the Cobden family beef farm, surrounded by various animals, including horses.
Cobden was riding ponies before he could walk and naturally graduated to pony racing at the age of nine. Local trainer Ron Hodges, a friend of the family, took Cobden under his wing after the youngster had bragged that his portly pony was the fastest in the area.
"I smiled and went with it but did try and warn him that he'd be tailed off last if he took this fat little thing into a proper pony race. So lo-and-behold that's what happened the first time he raced it properly. He had the right hump. He wasn't happy about it and we had to go and get him a new one right away. We drove miles to get a better one for him. From then on I think he only lost about two races from thirty-odd," Hodges told thesun.co.uk.
Cobden was riding out on the Hodges' gallops at just 10 years old and soon progressed to Point To Point racing where he competed against Paul Nicholls' daughter Megan. Cobden rode out for near neighbour Nicholls in the Summer from the age of 13 onwards, setting in place a relationship that would soon become more official.
However, Cobden's first win under rules was actually for Anthony Honeyball in March 2015 - in a story that could have come out of a warped Grange Hill script. Not particularly academic, at 16 Cobden skipped his English GCSE exam to ride El Mondo at Leicester for Honeyball's wife Rachael Green in a hunters' chase. Cobden managed to get El Mondo up for the win at a price of 33/1, earning his father, who had backed the horse with £20, a tidy sum.
After a season working for Honeyball, Cobden was offered the job of conditional jockey for Nicholls, who had been keeping tabs on the up and coming rider.
Joining Paul Nicholls
2015/16 proved to be a key season of growth for Cobden as he was thrust into the spotlight by winning the StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle in November 2015. Cobden, claiming a 7lb allowance, produced Old Guard to win by two lengths at a price of 12/1.
Cobden went on to win 30 times in 2015/16, setting up a 2016/17 campaign that was to shape his destiny.
By this point, Cobden was riding winners for two major West Country trainers in Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard, meaning a tug-of-war for his services was inevitable.
In November 2016, Cobden won the Grade 3 BetVictor Handicap Chase for Tizzard and then stepped up a gear to take the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth hurdle at Newcastle for Nicholls on Irving.
Cobden picked up a Grade 1 Tingle Creek victory on the Nicholls-trained Politologue in December 2017 but Tizzard wasn't to be denied, giving Cobden the leg up on Kilbricken Storm for his first Cheltenham Festival winner in March 2018.
Cobden was named Champion Conditional Jockey for 2016/17, making him hot property, and it wasn't long before he had to choose between Tizzard and Nicholls.
On May 4, 2018, it was announced that Cobden 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. I have the best of both worlds, as when I haven't got a ride for Paul, I am able to ride for Colin, I am very fortunate," Cobden told greatbritishlife.co.uk.
Nicholls, meanwhile, was clear on the importance of signing Cobden as his stable jockey.
"We then knew he'd been offered a job by Colin Tizzard and so we had to act. It's not like football where we can let him go for a couple of years and then get him back in on a transfer," Nicholls told thesun.co.uk.
Broken neck left career in tatters
Cobden's start as Nicholls' number one jockey couldn't have gone much worse as he suffered a serious neck injury in June 2018, barely a month after starting in the role.
He was unseated by Mick Thonic in a chase at Market Rasen but was able to walk away and only learned of the severity of his injury at hospital. He had two scans, the first in Nottingham and the second as he began his recovery, with only the latter revealing just how bad the injury was.
"It was worse than they originally thought it was at Nottingham. They thought it was a little fracture, but it was a proper clean fracture straight through my C2 vertebra. I was very, very fortunate to be alright.
"It's the second vertebra down on your neck and my specialist said it's one of the most dangerous ones to do. I feel lucky to be walking around," Cobden told racingpost.com.
Cobden spent nearly four months in recovery but was back in the saddle by the end of September 2018.
Barely three months after his return, Cobden was back among the Grade 1 winners, taking the 2018 King George VI Chase at Kempton on Clan Des Obeaux for Nicholls, highlighting the jockey's determination to succeed at the top level.
Further Grade 1 success
In 2018/19, Cobden claimed 109 winners, firmly establishing himself as Nicholls' top jockey. Few of his winners were more impressive than Cyrname in the 2019 Ascot Chase.
Cobden sent the French-bred Cyrname on a superlative round of front-running jumping, pummelling the opposition and winning by a clear 17 lengths from Waiting Patiently in second.
"I had no idea he would improve like he has done. It is an astonishing improvement. Harry has had a plan all week - and he has executed it brilliantly. He gave him a brilliant ride," Nicholls told timeform.com.
Cheltenham Festival success was next on the agenda for the Cobden/Nicholls team and the pair targeted the 2019 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase.
On the aptly named Topofthegame, Cobden showed he was reaching the peak of his powers by coolly delivering the Nicholls trained horse to beat two classy types in Santini and Delta Work.
Cobden then headed to Newbury with Bravemansgame in December 2020 for the Challow Hurdle, riding a horse which drew comparisons with the great Denman. In a front running display, Cobden steered Bravemansgame with confidence, earning a 10 length victory over Star Gate.
Bravemansgame is a suitable mount for a jockey who has fought back from severe injury to assert himself as one of the top jockeys in British National Hunt Racing.
Cobden remains a horseman ahead of the game and one that will lead the Nicholls operation into a new decade of success.
Cobden's parents, William and Sarah, are working farmers in Lydford-on-Fosse, Somerset. He has an older brother, James.
Cobden has diligently invested his earnings from racing, purchasing a 13 acre farm and running a shooting business.
In 2018, it was revealed that Cobden had been in a relationship with fellow jockey and childhood friend Bryony Frost since 2016. The high-profile coupling saw the 2018 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival billed as a "race between lovers", with Cobden on Elegant Escape and Frost riding Black Corton. Cobden finished third and Frost fifth. Cobden and Frost have since split.
Away from racing, Cobden enjoys walking his dogs and shooting with his friends.
Harry Cobden News
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