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Monday, 19 November, 2018

The teenager on Frankie, handicapping and mixing racing with life on the farm

The champion conditional and Grade 1 winner, 19, takes the weekly grilling

Huge day: young jockey Harry Cobden is all smiles after winning on Politologue, his second Grade 1 winner
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What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Just to work hard, stay focused and try my best at everything.

If you could compete in any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
Shooting. I have shot quite a bit over the years, I have two guns. I wouldn't mind having a go at super hard clay shooting like they do at the Olympics. 

What is your earliest racing memory?
Sitting with my grandfather Frank Habberfield watching the racing on a cold day next to the fire.

What do you think racing does best?
It is a sport for any class. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, anyone can go racing.

Other than better prize-money, what is the one thing you would change about racing?
I would put a stop to allowing the handicapper being able to raise a horse's rating while it's standing in its box, when the horse who finished behind it has won. I don't think that's fair.

You have come a long way in a short time. Which of your achievements so far are you most proud of?
It would have be winning two Grade 1 races on Irving in the Fighting Fifth and Politologue in the Tingle Creek. There aren't very many in a season, so to have bagged two is pretty special.

Harry Cobden and Paul Nicholls celebrate their Tingle Creek victory with Politologue

Have you set any goals for 2018 or made any New Year's resolutions?
I would like to ride more winners than last season. I rode 63 in 2016-17 and I've reached the forties so I'm a little way off, but I think I'm ahead of where I was last season so hopefully I can do it.

How much of your time do you find for farming and expanding your herd of cows?
At the moment 90 per cent of my time is spent racing and ten per cent on farming. When I get home I do have a little look around the farm. I've got rid of most of the cows and have 20 left but will be looking to buying a few more.

What was the best present you had for Christmas?
A smart pair of Russell & Bromley shoes.

Would you rather win the Cheltenham Gold Cup or be champion jockey?
That's a hard one, but it would probably be to be champion jockey.

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
France.

Kauto Star or Arkle?
Kauto Star was the horse I grew up watching, so definitely him – a true champion.

What is your biggest ambition in racing?
To ride as many big winners as I can. I would love to win one of the big races at the Cheltenham Festival.

And outside of racing?
To be successful enough to have a nice farm for when I retire from race riding.

What is your worst habit?
I'm always leaving my coat on the floor around the house.

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Sir Gordon Richards.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Driving my dad's truck into a really deep ditch. It had to be dragged out.

What are your most treasured possessions?
My late grandfather's cufflinks. They're gold with a pearl in the middle of them.

How do you relax away from racing?
I have a look around my parent's farm, where I have a field, and will have the odd day shooting with a few friends.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
My mother and father Sarah and William with their financial support, taking me pony racing and point-to-pointing.

Who do you most admire from the 'other' code?
Frankie Dettori. He's a brilliant jockey who manages to handle the pressure to go out and ride Group winners.

Frankie Dettori: cool under pressure, less so in celebration

When did you first know you’d become a jockey?
From the age of eight and a half. I started pony racing when I was nine and I was always quite keen from then onwards. I was lucky to have Ron Hodges down the road and he helped me train my ponies. He helped me out a lot.

What’s your biggest fear?
Not being the best I can be in my career.

Social media – friend or foe?
Friend – at the moment.

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
John Francome, Sir AP McCoy, Lewis Hamilton and Ed Sheeran.


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Kauto Star was the horse I grew up watching, so definitely him – a true champion.
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