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Harry Cobden in fine form as Pic D’Orhy makes easy work of Ascot Chase

Harry Cobden excelled as Pic D’Orhy put in a faultless display of jumping to make every yard of the running in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Second to Shishkin in the Grade One feature 12 months ago, the Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old put Venetia Williams’ Gold Cup contender L’Homme Presse to the sword from a long way out.

Cobden and his mount soon had the favourite out of his comfort zone with some slick jumping and very quickly had a five-length lead.

By meeting every fence on a good stride he was gaining ground all the time, and Charlie Deutsch was niggling away on L’Homme Presse, who was always jumping to his left.

Going down the back straight L’Homme Presse, Ahoy Senor and the big outsider Sail Away began to close in, but Cobden had saved plenty.

Rounding the home bend he kicked Pic D’Orhy clear and the 13-8 chance put in a marvellous leap at the last to seal a five-and-a-half-length win from L’Homme Presse.

Nicholls said: “I enjoyed that immensely and when he jumped the first I thought ‘well he is going to take some beating’.

“At that trip today, it was a fantastic ride from Harry, we were always going to be positive.

“L’Homme Presse wasn’t jumping great, he was jumping left a bit and flat out and I knew what Harry was doing, he gave him a little breather, then kick in the belly turning in and away we go.

“He’s so good at that distance we don’t need to step up to three miles at the moment. Ultimately he would get it and next year we can have another talk about it (King George).

“I don’t know why after all his races, but he seems to be improving – today was the best I’ve ever seen him look and probably the best he’s ever run.

“To put good horses in their place like that was fantastic.

“The stiffer track probably suited him and last time at Kempton he was giving 3lb to a very good horse in Banbridge, but this track seems to bring out the best of him, he stays strong over that trip.

“It was a fantastic ride and that is why Harry is vying to be champion, he’s riding like a champion jockey.”

Pic D’Orhy was cut to 6-1 by Betfair for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but Nicholls has always insisted a return to Aintree to defend his Melling Chase crown would be his spring objective and was not for shifting post-race.

“I suspect now we will go straight to Aintree,” continued Nicholls.

“He’s had a hard race there and I have Stage Star and Hitman to run in the Ryanair – Stage Star is in great shape. He’s had a hard race today and he was trained for today and now we will train him for Aintree.

“We went to Cheltenham with Kauto Star after he won here and he got beat and I think if you have a hard race here, it’s a tough ask to then go to Cheltenham, so we will give him plenty of time.

“It’s a great race to win. Rockforce won it, Silviniaco Conti and Cyrname – what a horse he was. This horse is altogether different to train than Cyrname who had a million problems, this horse has got it all and he keeps improving. I’m really pleased.

“Next year we could have a conversation about the King George. I have no doubt in a year’s time he will get the trip and it might just bring about the best in him. I’m sure Johnny (de la Hay, owner) and I will be having a chat about that.”

Having earlier struck with Threeunderfive in the afternoon’s feature handicap, Pic D’Orhy’s victory marked a double for Nicholls and Cobden and the winning rider was thrilled the nine-year-old is finally repaying the faith of connections.

He said: “It always helps when you have a horse going forward and there’s (L’Homme Presse) was a little bit stuttery and I winged the first, winged the second, winged the third and kept going – I’ve done it before and it hasn’t worked out and you get called a few things!

“It was probably a bit silly (to do what I did at the last) when I was that far clear – I’ve had some bad falls off him and there was a day at Newbury I thought he’d killed me and him.

“I remember one of the first times I rode him we went all the way to Auteuil and jumped about four hurdles and he flipped down the first down the back. Johnny had spent lots of money getting a private jet over there and the best thing about it was the sandwiches.

“We’ve had some bad days, but he’s repaid us and we’ve now had some great days. It’s great for Johnny as he is a huge supporter.”

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