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Champion jockey Cobden salutes Nicholls’ contribution to title victory

Champion jockey Cobden salutes Nicholls’ contribution to title victory
Champion jockey Cobden salutes Nicholls’ contribution to title victory

Harry Cobden has hailed the influence of Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat operation after fulfilling a childhood dream and becoming champion jockey.

Cobden held off his one-time stable comrade and friend Sean Bowen in a good-spirited title battle that went right down to the final days of the season.

The Ditcheat number one sealed the title with a double at Chepstow on Friday evening which took him seven winners clear of Bowen, who had four rides booked on the final day.

Harry Cobden (left) gets his trophy off AP McCoy
Harry Cobden (left) gets his trophy off AP McCoy (John Walton/PA)

“It’s a childhood dream and something I’ve always wanted to achieve and I’m delighted,” said Cobden.

“You can’t do this without a big trainer behind you and when you have a powerful yard with 140 horses, it makes things a lot easier.

“He’s got very strong owners and a good team, right the way from Clifford Baker to the girls who come in and ride out in the mornings, they are all an integral part of the team and I couldn’t do it without any of them.

“It’s not ideal and slightly disappointing that Paul hasn’t won (the trainers’ championship) but we have perhaps missed a few of our good horses this year and it would have been a good party if we could have both done it.”

Harry Cobden has thrived in the saddle this term
Harry Cobden has thrived in the saddle this term (Mike Egerton/PA)

At Christmas it looked as though Bowen would be crowned champion as he held a hefty lead, but that all changed after the 26-year-old suffered an injury on Boxing Day which kept him on the sidelines until early February.

Cobden took full advantage of Bowen’s absence, erasing the majority of the healthy advantage the Welshman had built up, with the duo then pushing themselves to the limits in the closing months of the campaign.

However, Cobden admits a title charge had not really crossed his mind until that defining Boxing Day moment, when he realised he had the right man behind him in Nicholls to give a championship tilt a good go.

“I was so far behind and Sean looked to have it in the bag and unfortunately Sean got injured and it levelled the table a bit,” continued Cobden.

“I’ve never had a cross word with Sean in seven years of sitting next to him and obviously we’re both going for the same thing, but it wasn’t until the first week in January that I thought I had a realistic chance.

“When he came back we were nil-nil and I had a really good spell through February and March was pretty good. There has been no tension between us at all and it’s been really good fun and something I’ve really enjoyed.

“We’re sat right next to each other and it’s been like that since time has begun really. We’re a similar age and we started a similar time.

“We’ve both ridden a lot more winners than ever before and ridden for a lot more people than we ever have done, but I just thought if he hit a little flat spot and Paul’s horses got into a gear, I could give him a run for his money.”

Harry Cobden tasted Cheltenham Festival success aboard Monmiral
Harry Cobden tasted Cheltenham Festival success aboard Monmiral (Adam Davy/PA)

Cobden also reserved special praise for his agent Sam Stronge, who has been a vital cog in his championship victory.

The 25-year-old has taken more rides than any previous year he has held a licence and he credits Stronge with enabling him to form vital connections with new trainers and owners in the closing months of the campaign.

He said: “It’s been an amazing year and I think previously the most rides I had ever had was just short of 600, whereas this season I’ve had over 720 rides and Sam Stronge has been fantastic for my career and put me on lots of very good horses.

“I’ve made lots of new connections with owners and trainers and Sam has put a lot of effort and work in and I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Harry Cobden and Paul Nicholls have formed a formidable combination
Harry Cobden and Paul Nicholls have formed a formidable combination (Steven Paston/PA)

Cobden’s boss Nicholls has made no secret of his desire to make his number one the first champion jockey based out of Ditcheat and feels this victory justifies the way he has embraced his hugely-pressurised position in recent years.

“It’s fantastic for the team and for Harry in particular, he’s been riding very well this year and he deserves it,” said Nicholls.

“He’s stayed injury free, ridden plenty of great winners for us and gone out and picked up plenty of spare rides, so it’s good he has won this for the team.

“He’s improved enormously with experience and he’s still a relatively young jockey and he’s only going to improve again with more experience. Experience in sport is a massive thing and he’s a complete jockey now who rides extremely well.

“He’s one of the best out there and there’s some good lads out there, but he’s one of the best and he’s come on well the last few years.

“There’s been lots of great days this year, a couple of rides he’s given Ginny’s Destiny when he’s won on him have been brilliant, but he’s been consistent all the way through. To be champion jockey there isn’t just one standout but lots of them and he’s been riding them very well this year.

“He’s great to work with and a good team player who everyone is fond of. I’ve never heard anyone have a cross word with him and I never have any owners saying they don’t want to use him, so he’s just the ultimate team player.”

Patrick Wadge, who is attached to Lucinda Russell’s yard, took the conditional riders’ title while JP McManus was the leading owner this term.

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