‘She went ballistic’


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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‘It’s incredibly kind of Ryan’ – Moore auctioning Ascot memento to raise funds for toddler with rare condition.

The commemorative saddlecloth that Ryan Moore received for partnering his 70th Royal Ascot winner last year has been donated to a charity auction that will take place in Newmarket next month. The purpose of the auction is to raise money for Ryan Moore’s personal trainer’s two-year-old son, who has a rare chromosome condition.

Moore reached this milestone when he and Meditate won the Group 3 Albany Stakes in June for Aidan O’Brien. After Frankie Dettori, who reached the milestone in 2020, he became the second jockey to receive a special 70 saddlecloth. Shortly thereafter, Dettori donated his Royal Ascot memento to a charity, raising £30,000 for frontline Covid-19 workers.

Around eight years ago, the three-time champion jockey hired former boxer Pat McAleese as his personal trainer. McAleese regularly visits Moore’s home to work on him in his private gym.

When McAleese and his wife Lucy celebrated their son Sonnie’s birth in 2021, it was discovered that he had a number of medical conditions, including the extremely rare deletion of chromosome 7, which affects many bodily functions and gives Sonnie the mobility of a six- or seven-week-old.

Pat McAleese said: “Deletion of chromosome 7 affects only five or six children in the world I believe. Sonnie has other issues such as a hole in his heart, an unsafe swallow and something called global development delay.”

The auction, which will take place on March 11 at Granary Barns in Wood Ditton and aims to raise funds for Sonnie, will also be used to pay for his specialist care, which will include speech therapy and aqua therapy.

McAleese added: “It’s incredibly kind of Ryan to give us this 70th Royal Ascot winner saddlecloth and hopefully it will raise something around what Frankie’s made. We also have other auction items such as hospitality for four at Newmarket racecourse and two F1 tickets for Silverstone.”



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‘I’m fortunate to go out on my own terms’ – Tom Scudamore in shock retirement.

After 25 years in the saddle, one of the greatest jump jockeys of all time, Tom Scudamore, has announced his retirement.

The jockey made the decision on Thursday after Ya Know Yaseff, trained by David Pipe, a longtime ally of Scudamore, defeated him at Leicester.

Scudamore, 40, ended his illustrious career after suffering a concussion in a second fall two weeks earlier at Chepstow as a result of the incident. On Saturday, he was scheduled to ride four runners at Ascot.

“I’m going to be 41 in May and after getting that concussion a couple of weeks ago, I now don’t bounce like I did,” he said on Friday. “It was always important to me that I got to make the decision and I’ve been very fortunate that it was in my own hands. I had another fall yesterday and while I’d love to still bounce back like I was 20, that’s not the way it is.

“Very few people get to go out on their own terms, whether it’s through injury or getting the sack, so I’ve been very fortunate. My grandfather had to retire through a bad fall, so it was always clear to me that you wouldn’t always get the choice of where and when you stop riding.

“It was always drummed into us that you’ll know when the moment is and once you’ve made that decision it’s settled. For me, that time came yesterday.”

With 1,499 victories over jumps in Britain and Ireland and 12 on the Flat, Scudamore finished his career as the tenth most prolific jump jockey of all time.

His record included 13 top-level victories, one of which was notable success with the Thistlecrack-trained Scudamore, who carried Scudamore to victory in the 2016 King George as one of five Grade 1 victories the partnership enjoyed. Thistlecrack was trained by Colin Tizzard.

“For 18 months Thistlecrack was the best horse in the country over hurdles or fences”, said Scudamore when speaking to the Racing Post’s YouTube show What A Shout. “There have been so many lovely horses I’ve ridden, too many to name, but Thistlecrack would be the most talented.”

He took over as David Pipe’s stable jockey in 2007 and won a lot of Cheltenham Festival races, winning Dynaste and Western Warhorse in 2014 alone.

He had a career-best 150 winners the following year, including a Champion Bumper victory with Moon Racer and a memorable Grand Annual victory with Next Sensation, trained by his brother Michael.

His tenth festival victory came in 2017 with Un Temps Pour Tout, who won the Ultima twice to give Scudamore a record-breaking fourth victory in the handicap chase.

Scudamore also worked with his father, eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore, to win the 2021 Scottish National with Mighty Thunder. This was a home victory for Scudamore’s stepmother, Lucinda Russell.

He said: “I’ve had so many big successes and I’ve been very thankful for all that people have done for me. I rode for the same people when I was claiming 7lb as I did when I retired – that’s what I’m most proud of. People have trusted me and I just hope I’ve done them proud and never let them down.

“I rode a festival winner for my brother, I rode a Scottish National winner for my father and step-mother, and I rode the best part of 1,000 winners for my best mate. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Scudamore finished his career on a high note with a Graded victory on Rock My Way on Trials Day at Cheltenham. In the days to come, he will look into other options besides racing.

“I’ll take stock for a little bit now,” he said. “David [Pipe] has already been asking if I can come and ride out at some point, plus I’ll make an appearance at Richard Hannon’s in the summer. I know nothing else other than riding horses, so I want to continue doing that, just not competitively.

“I’m still an ambassador for Coral and I’d like to do more on the media side of things, but I still want to stay involved in racing. In what capacity remains to be seen, but I’ve got plenty of things going on and I’ll remain as busy as I can.”



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The whip row with Paul Struthers.

Next week marks the 11th anniversary of an interesting and successful act of diplomacy that helped put an end to a whip dispute that had been going on for a long time. We need a reenactment, please!

During a conversation with Paul Struthers, the new owner of Moya Sport, the Front Runner was reminded of this fact. He became the Professional Jockeys Association’s brand-new chief executive in February 2012. He had a new opposite number at the BHA who was also new, Paul Bittar, and the two of them met at the beginning of that month to talk about the hot topic at the time.

“It gets forgotten,” Struthers says, “but that whip furore had been going for five months. Paul and I sat down and we pretty much got it cracked.” As he recalls it, the modified version of the whip rules which they agreed upon “lasted ten years without, really, a good deal of complaint, apart from too much naval-gazing in my view from within racing.”

According to historical accounts, the two Pauls removed some of the starch from the rules, which had been tightened in October, in order to make them more practical. Bittar said in a statement, “While well intentioned, and in accordance with initial requests from the jockeys for clarity and consistency … in practice the new rules have repeatedly thrown up examples of no consideration being given to the manner in which the whip is used as well as riders being awarded disproportionate penalties for the offence committed.”

The following is quoted from Struthers: “This change recognises that a grey issue cannot be proportionately and fairly regulated by a black and white rule.” All of this sounds very relevant to the arguments that are currently raging once more as our sport begins to implement a new, more stringent whip policy today.

It also serves as a good illustration of the kind of expertise and experience Struthers brings to his new position. He left the PJA at the end of 2021 and took some time to think about what he wanted to do next. He is now looking for clients, and he hopes that some of them will come from racing.

I hope it goes well because I have often benefited from his insights over the past 20 years. You may recall that before joining the jockeys, he worked at the Jockey Club, the BHB, and then the BHA, including as head of communications.

His website features glowing words from Ryan Moore, a hard man to impress, who says: “Paul led the PJA brilliantly in his ten years in charge. He knew his stuff and what he was doing, anticipated issues, had our best interests at heart and I trusted his judgement and advice completely.”

What does he offer prospective customers? Basically, it’s bringing together my expertise in crisis communications, stakeholder communications, sports integrity, and welfare over the past 15 to 20 years.

“I’m trying to help people improve their processes, help them build better relationships and enhance reputations, through the experience I’ve had. Whether that’s representing athletes in hearings or lobbying or regulatory change or managing significant PR crises or potential crises.

“Not many people have worked for both a player association and a governing body or regulator. There will always be an element of friction between a governing body and the players. You’ll never get away from that.

“As much as I could stamp my feet and wasn’t shy about going public with issues when I was at the PJA, when I felt that was what needed to happen, we fundamentally had a really, really good relationship with the BHA.” He hopes he can show others how such fruitful working relationships can be built and maintained.

“There is friction that could be avoided, often in my view because there’s an inability on the part of governing bodies to apologise for things. And this isn’t unique to sport, you see it a lot in politics and in business.” Approvingly, he cites the recent apology by British Gas’s Chris O’Shea.

“I’d love to get some clients in racing and hopefully will because I still really love the sport. It’s obviously worrying, about field-sizes in jump racing and the prices of favourites at Cheltenham and entries for the Grand National. Equally, I still think there are opportunities for racing and there is a healthy future for it.”

The whip issue will need to be resolved once more if that healthy future is to be achieved. It’s clear that Struthers thinks it’s a mistake to remove stewards’ discretion, which had previously allowed them to disregard a jockey’s use of the whip in certain situations. For instance, in a jump race, if the whip was used to correct a horse that was running down an obstacle or after a jumping error, it might not be included in the calculations.

“Now all that discretion’s gone. That is going to be really, really hard because it was hard to deal with before.

“When I took over at the PJA in 2012, discretion had been removed between October and February and jockeys did not get used to it. It was a fixed limit until Paul and I agreed to bring in some discretion, which was never as much as I thought it should have been but it was welcome all the same.

“They will undoubtedly get used to it because jockeys are a remarkable group of men and women, who are so adaptable to change and cope so well with pressure, but it is going to be very difficult. It will make riding hard, thinking about what they are having to do.

“I would take very short odds on this happening, that during Cheltenham there will be a mini cottage industry on social media of people counting how many times jockeys used the whip in every race. There will be jockeys who are so petrified of getting a significant ban that they may only use the whip four or five times and leave a couple of uses up their sleeve, lose by a narrow margin and get criticised for it, either in public or in private by connections.

“The next two to four weeks are going to be a real test. I think it will be a period of pain, particularly for jockeys. The doubling of penalties in Class 1 and 2 races is huge. You only have to go two over at Cheltenham and you’re looking at a 14-day ban.

“For the life of me, I can’t see how that is remotely proportionate. But too many people in racing convinced themselves it [a whip rule breach] was effectively jockeys cheating and getting rewarded for it.”



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For violating the whip, Sean Bowen received an 18-day suspension.

After receiving an 18-day totting-up ban on Thursday from racing’s disciplinary panel, Sean Bowen will miss two Saturdays in a row, including Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury.

The jockey, who trails only Brian Hughes by winners ridden this jumps season, will only serve 12 days if he doesn’t break the whip again before April 13.

When Bowen used his whip three times quickly on the approach to the final fence during his winning ride on Mackelduff at Wetherby a fortnight ago, the hearing was sparked. In just six months, it was his fifth breach.

The BHA’s argument that the jockey had not given his mount enough time to respond was accepted by the panel. It rejected Bowen’s argument that he had to use his whip to get the horse to focus after a series of poorer-quality jumps.

“Four-out was steady, three-out was sloppy,” Bowen told the panel. “I felt I had to do something more than just hands and heels. The horse had more to give.”

After the third fence, he once used his whip behind the saddle, but he didn’t get the response he wanted. “Two-out was the sloppiest of the three jumps.

“He pecked on landing and almost tripped himself up, purely out of concentration issues. He wasn’t tired. It was him being sloppy and lack of concentration.

“He could easily have tripped himself up over the last. He really had to concentrate because if he got that wrong, it was going to hurt. He then jumped the last better than any of the previous three.”

However, the panel was not convinced that Bowen’s use of the whip was primarily intended to focus Mackelduff on clearing the final fence. “We find there was a focus to win the race and not as a safety issue,” said the chairman, James O’Mahony. “There was nothing so concerning about the jumping.”

A totting-up ban was inevitable as a result of that decision. Bowen offered a defense of mitigation by citing the large number of rides he had taken in the preceding six months.

“This is a jockey who uses his whip sparingly,” said his solicitor, Rory Mac Neice. “He can and does go very long periods with no infringement at all.”

Mac Neice made the observation that none of Bowen’s most recent infractions involved excessive use; rather, three of them involved whip use in the wrong place. He explained that the jockey had been trying to get used to using the whip backhand in anticipation of the forehand ban, which has since been lifted, but that he had found it difficult because he was one of the smaller jockeys in the jumps weighing room.

In remarks made last week to the Racing Post, Bowen made this point: “I’ve been punished for something I’ve been trying to get the hang of, which it turns out I never needed to do. I was like a lot of jockeys in that we found we couldn’t use the whip in the right place using the backhand only.”

O’Mahony, on the other hand, stated that the panel was concerned because Bowen had recently broken the law by using the whip with too much force. He directed Bowen to spend one day of his suspension at the British Racing School, where he would receive instruction on how to use the whip correctly.

The suspension of Bowen will begin at the end of the following week and last from February 3 to February 14.


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Harry Bannister, who has been out since October after dislocating a hip in a bad fall, is planning to be back riding within weeks. In the coming days, he will sit on a horse for the first time since the injury and he believes that he will be back racing come the end of January.

Harry had his best season of winners and prize-money last season and he had been itching to build on it this winter.  However, his fall from Godrevy Point in a handicap chase at Stratford was a blow to those ambitions, meaning the frustration of months away from the track.

Fortunately, after multiple surgeries were a success, he can now look forward to returning sooner rather than later.

Bannister said, “We’re pretty much there. I’ve got a scan in two weeks and if that goes well, I won’t be far off.

“I’m hopefully going to ride out in the next week or so. The doctors and those involved have said the recovery has gone smoothly. By the sounds of it they did a very good job with the initial two surgeries, so that’s helped.”

“I’m close to Lambourn and there’s a hydrotherapy pool and gym at Oaksey, and Rob [Treviss] and Anna [Fisher] have been brilliant,” he added. “Jerry Hill has been influential in where we go with it all and how much we do, but I think it’s all gone pretty well.”

“There are things you can’t be certain about and things could go either way, but, from what everyone says, we’ve gone the right side of it, so hopefully I can put it behind me and go again.”

“No time to be injured is good, but November and December are two of the busiest months, so it was quite tough to miss, although being at Oaksey has helped the sanity. I’ve been able to keep busy and keep my mind on something, but it was unfortunate I wasn’t able to build on last season.”

We are wishing Harry Bannister well, and hopefully he can soon add to his handful of graded victories in the near future.



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