For the past two years anybody who has asked Harry Cobden, Paul Nicholls’s stable jockey, which horse in the yard he was most looking forward to partnering, the answer has always been the same: Bravemansgame. But when declarations were made for the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock last weekend, the rider’s name attached to King George winner Bravemansgame was that of Daryl Jacob. Jacob was thus in line for the jockey’s share of the £112,000 prize. Cobden, said Nicholls, would be riding the yard’s entrants at Ascot instead. Although it was rapidly announced that Cobden was happy about the arrangement, a few eyebrows were raised and tails swished, particularly because Nicholls had been openly critical of one of his stable jockey’s rides at Cheltenham the previous weekend, albeit before Cobden’s last fence recovery in a victory on Stage Star showcased his remarkable talents.
Paul, of course, has never been one to hide his feelings, but he is a man who moves on immediately and if Cobden was even a tiny bit miffed over his Saturday posting it never transmitted itself to the horses he rode, all four of them winners. In the novice hurdle, despite his mount Farnoge carrying a penalty, Cobden led all the way and went clear between the last two on what is obviously a smart performer.
In the Grade 2 Nirvana Spa Chase everything changed at the start when Shishkin, who had trounced Cobden’s mount by 16 lengths when the two last met at Ascot, planted his feet at the start and refused to move. Pic D’Orhy thus only had two long-priced outsiders left to beat but didn’t like the ground or jump as well as he can. He won all right but needed coaxing from the saddle.