Jockey Harry Cobden confident superb Cyrname will cope with course in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase

A mud-splattered Harry Cobden after partnering Cyrname to Grade One glory at Ascot.A mud-splattered Harry Cobden after partnering Cyrname to Grade One glory at Ascot.
A mud-splattered Harry Cobden after partnering Cyrname to Grade One glory at Ascot.
EVEN though Harry Cobden is still, hopefully, in the early stages of his career as a jump jockey, he freely admits that he’ll be blessed to ride another horse as gifted as the scintillating Cyrname.

This is the steeplechasing superstar, previously the highest-rated National Hunt horse, who carried his young jockey to a hat-trick of high-profile triumphs at Ascot in 2019, including victory over the all-conquering Altior.

But Cyrname’s reappearance in this Saturday’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase – he heads a high-class field of 20 initial entries for Wetherby’s feature race of the year – represents a new proposition for both horse and rider.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After all, the horse has not raced since an unaccustomed fall at Ascot in February when below his best – the horror etched across Cobden’s face as he scrambled clear was replaced by relief as his mount got to his feet.

Harry Cobden is looking forward to being reunited with Cyrname at Wetherby this weekend.Harry Cobden is looking forward to being reunited with Cyrname at Wetherby this weekend.
Harry Cobden is looking forward to being reunited with Cyrname at Wetherby this weekend.

The signs, according to both Cobden and trainer Paul Nicholls, is that the fall has not left its mark. They’re less sure, however, whether Wetherby’s left-handed configuration will suit the Johnny de la Hey-owned Cyrname – he’s far superior going right-handed on tracks like the aforementioned Ascot.

And the slight question mark is the three mile one furlong trip – the steeplechaser’s best form has, previously, come over two and a half miles.

However connections want to see, once and for all, if Cyrname has the scope for longer distances after being beaten by stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in last year’s King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and travel restrictions due to Covid effectively forced them to head to Wetherby rather than Down Royal in Northern Ireland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He’s going left-handed for the first time in a long while but he should have a very good chance, shouldn’t he?” ventured the languid Cobden to The Yorkshire Post as the big race declarations were confirmed.

Harry Cobden in the Cyrname colours.Harry Cobden in the Cyrname colours.
Harry Cobden in the Cyrname colours.

“I think he will be fine on a flat track like Wetherby. Hopefully he will run a big race and come back in one piece.”

That last comment is a reference to the aforementioned fall at Ascot when Cyrname, badly winded, lay prone on the sodden turf, as Storm Ciara lashed Britain, for many minutes before staggering to his feet to the relief of the pre-Covid crowd.

“It was one of those things, but he looks fantastic – 100 per cent – and hopefully, he stays 100 per cent between now and Saturday. I can’t wait for the race.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The reason, says the 21-year-old Somerset farmer’s son, is Cyrname’s flamboyant jumping which he describes as “every jockey’s dream”. This was self-evident when he won a handicap chase at Ascot by a wide-margin in January last year before following up in the Grade One Ascot Chase where his jumping destroyed horses of the calibre of Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently.

And it was the same in the Christy 1965 Chase last November – Cyrname’s most recent win – when he took Altior, Nicky Henderson’s previously unbeaten steeplechaser, out of his comfort zone on awfully heavy ground which, in fairness, didn’t help either equine warrior.

“I’ve had some fantastic jumps on him and he’s probably one of the best horses I will ever ride,” said Cobden when asked for his own assessment. “He’s a bit older now, eight going on nine, and probably not as keen as he was in the past. Hopefully it will give him a better chance of settling and staying three miles – we won’t know until we try it, will we?

“We are looking forward and will learn a lot on Saturday. But he’s brave. He jumps like a buck. He’s a clever horse, very clever, and he’s not frightened of anything.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The same applies to Cobden who suffered serious neck injuries in a fall at Market Rasen in the summer of 2019. Back to full fitness and established as stable jockey to the ever demanding Nicholls – a phlegmatic attitude helps – he’s currently second in the title race behind champion jockey Brian Hughes.

The fact he was in action at Ayr yesterday, albeit drawing a blank, was an early signal of his intent – the wind and rain was howling while he walked the Scottish track in his Wellington boots while undertaking this interview. “I’m loving it, absolutely loving it,” he said. “I’ve had more winners (35) than I’ve ever had at this time of year and we’ll give it a go. Fingers crossed, I stay in one piece for the season.”

The Charlie Hall field includes 2018 Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite, Kim Bailey’s progressive Vindication and Sam Spinner who makes his comeback for Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe.

Last year’s winner Ballyoptic is joined by Brian Ellison’s 2018 hero Definitly Red while Bellshill, previously a top horse in Ireland, represents Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He’s a probable ride for 2013 Grand National hero Ryan Mania who marked the first anniversary of his comeback to racing at Ayr by winning on Thomson’s chaser Empire Steel at the Scottish track yesterday.

But they will all have to be at their best to defeat Cyrname if he brings his A-game to Yorkshire. “We’ll learn a lot, won’t we?” added Cobden. “I can’t wait – it’s what it’s all about. I’ve just got to ride a few between now and Saturday and stay in one piece.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.