If there is a British jockey capable of breaking the decade-long domination of Irish trio Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell and Barry Geraghty at the Cheltenham Festival, it is Harry Cobden, whose promotion last spring to be first jockey to Paul Nicholls has coincided with the trainer’s resurgence.
With all three Irishmen turning 40 this year, Cobden, essentially a Somerset young farmer, looks well placed to be involved at the changing of the guard. His talent, combined with a devil-may-care attitude, shrewd business mind, strong work ethic and a touch of arrogance, suggests he might last the trip in his current role, when the shelf life of the incumbents since Walsh has tended to be short and, on occasions, not overly sweet.
Cobden’s parents, Will and Sarah, are hard-working farmers from Lydford-on-Fosse. The jockey and his older brother, James, are now partners in the sheep and beef cattle business at Willow Bank Farm; 95 acres which include 13 bought by the jockey from his earnings as champion conditional.
When Cobden, 20, was a child, the family also used to run the abattoir at Langport. The result of having a slaughterhouse as his playground is that he can cut up and joint a pig, a qualification unlikely to be shared by many weighing-room colleagues.