While Harry Cobden is undoubtedly one of the top jockeys in Britain, he hasn’t performed as well as he would have liked at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years. It’s well documented that the Ditcheat team have struggled at Prestbury Park in that time — with Cobden and his boss Paul Nicholls amazingly firing blanks for the last two years in a row.
That should be about to change when the 2023 renewal of the Festival gets underway this month. Nicholls has a few good chances in the novices’ races as his yard looks to be finally rebuilding with some exciting youngsters, while the 13-time British jump racing Champion Trainer also has a runner in the top three of the horse racing odds for the prestigious Gold Cup.
Both Nicholls and Cobden are in fine form so far this season as well, boasting impressive strike rates of 29% at the time of writing. That begs the question of whether or not the 24-year-old might be worth considering as an outside chance for the top jockey title at this year’s Festival at outside odds of 25/1.
Cobden certainly won’t have as good of a book of rides as Paul Townend or Nico de Boinville, who ride out for Willie Mullins and Nico de Boinville and will therefore be atop a wealth of favourites respectively, but if he wins aboard his more favoured horses and romps home on a couple of outsiders then he might just throw his hat into the ring.
That said, read on as we take a look at some of Cobden’s best chances of ending his two-year Festival drought.
Hermes Allen – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Nicholls’ shortest-price runner of the entire week, Hermes Allen is 11/4 to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle for team Ditcheat. The English handler hasn’t had a winner over hurdles at the Festival in his last 38 attempts, but this six-year-old has a fantastic chance of ending that baren spell.
The part Sir Alex Ferguson-owned horse is three for three over obstacles this campaign, most notably winning a Grade 2 over course and distance at Prestbury Park in November and the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury on New Year’s Eve. That’s a good indication for this race, but Impaire Et Passe has since swooped in and taken the position as favourite.
Bravemansgame – Gold Cup
There would be no better way to tell the racing world that they are on their way back to being serious contenders at the Festival after something of a transitional period than winning the Gold Cup, and Bravemansgame is set to lineup for starter’s orders as Britain’s leading hope in the showpiece at 13/2.
The eight-year-old has appeared just twice this season, but has mightily impressed over fences in his first year outside of novice company — winning the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase in October before landing the prestigious King George VI Chase in style at Kempton on Boxing Day, finishing 14 lengths ahead of Royale Pagaille.
The Gold Cup is a step up in trip by two-and-a-half furlongs, but like favourite Galopin Des Champs who is also facing his first outing over 3 and a quarter miles, the additional distance shouldn’t be a problem for Bravemansgame.
Tahmuras – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
While it’s hard to overlook Facile Vega in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle despite the Mullins-trained running out of gas towards the end of the Ireland Novice Hurdle last month, there is still now an argument that the thrilling opener is shaping up to be a more open affair.
And, Tahmuras looks like a tempting choice for the Supreme at 10/1. The six-year-old boasts an impressive record in his maiden season over obstacles, winning a maiden at Chepstow and the listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock before landing his first Grade 1 in January — beating L’Astroboy by over two lengths in the Tolworth at Sandown.
What’s more, Cobden believes the six-year-old stands a better chance in the Supreme if there’s soft ground and with the weather taking a bit of turn, Tahmuras might just get that suitable ground.