16-year-old Harry Cobden’s first winner left him facing his mother’s wrath.
At 16 years old, Harry Cobden skipped his GCSE English exam to ride his first winner under rules. This choice earned him very different reactions from his parents. Cobden reflects on this incident, his racing career, and more in a major interview with the Racing Post.
Cobden initially struggled with pony races and had threatened to quit the sport after finishing last on his first ride. However, he persisted and first made an impact in 2015. That year, he should have been focusing on his GCSE exams, but he admits he gave up on his schooling. This included missing an English exam to ride El Mondo in a hunter chase at Leicester. When his mother found out about the clash of dates, she was angry, but Cobden’s father’s bet on the race softened the blow.
“She went ballistic,” said the rider, “but my dad had 20 quid on it at 33-1. All round, it would have been bad news if it had got beat, but it’s still a big regret that I didn’t pay any attention for the last six months of my time at school.
“What’s six months, after all? But when you’re 16 it seems like forever. Luckily I turned out all right as a jockey because I don’t know what I’d have done otherwise. I wouldn’t have enough qualifications to work in McDonald’s.”
Despite his lack of focus on school, Cobden’s career as a jockey took off later that year when he won the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Old Guard. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing in those early years.
“I went down to the last upsides Barry Geraghty and beat him, and back then it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me,” he said. “I’d made it, I was on the scene and everything was easy.
“The following week I rode seven favourites and they all got beat. I soon learned that you never know what’s round the corner.”
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