What We Learned

Nico de Boinville flying, Harry Cobden on title charge and Ben Pauling unearthing talent - three things we learned this week

Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury was the main fixture this week and there were plenty of spring pointers on the Premier raceday. Here are three key takeaways from across the week . . .

Nico de Boinville heading to Cheltenham at peak of his powers

After missing almost the whole of January with a broken collarbone, Nico de Boinville has returned with a bang and is riding at the top of his game at the perfect time with Cheltenham on the horizon.

The 34-year-old has had his detractors but they seem to be getting fewer and fewer, and he demonstrated his skills with a brilliant double at Newbury on Saturday.

Riding the enigmatic Shishkin must be one of the hardest aspects of his job, but also one of the most rewarding. The ten-year-old's jumping often flirts with disaster and he needed to be rousted along at various points, but De Boinville understands him like nobody else and knows exactly when to push the necessary buttons.

The highlight of his excellent day, though, was an expert steer on Iberico Lord in the Betfair Hurdle. While the front-runners zapped themselves of energy, De Boinville got a dream run round the inside and had the measure of Harry Skelton and L'Eau Du Sud to add another major handicap to Iberico Lord's CV.

James Bowen had deputised as Nicky Henderson's number one during his colleague's absence but, while he did nothing wrong, he may be waiting in the wings at Seven Barrows for a while yet.
Sam Hendry

Cobden casting net far and wide in bid for first title

Sean Bowen was the heavy favourite to land his first jump jockeys' title after opening a 31-winner lead before Christmas, but an injury to the championship leader on Boxing Day and a string of winners for Harry Cobden has changed the picture dramatically. The pair are now level and the market has swung in favour of the closer.

Cobden finished third in the championship last season, partnering 117 winners from 434 rides, with 98 of those wins and 331 mounts coming for boss Paul Nicholls.

That meant just 16 per cent of his winners and 24 per cent of his rides came for stables outside of Ditcheat. Those 19 winners came for just ten other yards.

In contrast, this season Cobden has spread his wings in a bid for a first title and has already surpassed last season’s tally with two months still to go.

Cobden’s 121 winners from 534 rides have been a lot less reliant on Nicholls, who has provided the jockey with 65 victories from 238 rides.

Indeed, 46 per cent of his winners (almost three times the percentage figure last season) and 55 per cent of his rides (more than double) have come for other stables – he has scored for 25 yards this season too.

Nicholls’ continual flow of winners would go a long way to helping Cobden over the line, but it’s the outside connections he has forged that have made him a serious contender this season.
Harry Wilson

Pauling has lots of talent for the future

Getting your hands on exciting future prospects is a key challenge for any trainer and Ben Pauling is very much succeeding on this front.

Two notable midweek winners were the latest examples of the talent at Pauling’s Naunton yard, starting with newcomer Diva Luna, who defied inexperience to win a good-quality Listed mares’ bumper at Market Rasen on Tuesday.

The Aintree mares’ bumper is a likely target for the smart five-year-old, while the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle could await Handstands after he took his record to 3-3 in the Listed Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday. Dunskay has Aintree on his agenda after winning a second bumper on the same card.

These are far from the only spring festival possibles for Pauling. Tellherthename missed Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle due to the testing ground and will now run in the Supreme. Challow third The Jukebox Man is entered in the Baring Bingham and Albert Bartlett, while Sixmilebridge was an impressive recent debut winner at Sandown and is 25-1 for the Champion Bumper.

A 22 per cent strike-rate in bumpers (7-32) and 19 per cent record (17-91) in novice hurdles this season suggests the future is particularly bright for Pauling.
Jack Haynes

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Published on 11 February 2024inWhat We Learned

Last updated 18:00, 11 February 2024