Nicholls and Cobden forming formidable partnership for others to aim at
Paul Nicholls praised stable jockey Harry Cobden for his role in a season that saw him officially crowned champion jumps trainer for the 14th time at Sandown’s bet365 Jump Finale.
The Ditcheat handler enjoyed a stellar campaign which saw him register his 13th King George thanks to Bravemansgame’s Christmas triumph and also return to the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure following a three-year hiatus with a Prestbury Park double.
All of that leaves Nicholls just one title away from matching Martin Pipe on 15 championships – and he was keen to pay tribute to an instrumental part of team Ditcheat and a man who has partnered just shy of 100 winners for him this term.
“He’s 24 and he’s still young for a jump jockey. But he’s getting experienced now, he’s fit and strong and he thinks about a race,” Nicholls said.
“I don’t think anyone is riding better than him, in my opinion he is if not the best, one of the best jump jockeys riding at the minute.
“He’s a big team player and he comes in every day and he schools. He’s just getting better and better and has been brilliant this year.”
Although Cobden was numerically adrift of Brian Hughes in the race to be named champion jockey, he has been a standing dish in the winner’s enclosure at the end of the season’s big races with a plethora of Grade One contests secured.
“He’s one of the big players and he could be champion jockey one day, but I don’t think he measures his success on that,” added Nicholls.
“If it was done on prize-money he would be a million in front of Brian Hughes, he’s earned an amazing amount of prize-money.
“If he’s champion jockey one day, I’m sure he would love it – but I don’t think that’s his number one priority and I think he will be happy just to keep on winning big races and doing as well as he has.”
Nicholls’ thirst for success has seen him dominate the 2022-23 season with the title sewn up at the conclusion of Aintree’s Grand National Festival.
To get to 14 championships is beyond my wildest dreams
Despite the emergence of Bravemansgame as a leading figure in the staying chase division, his latest crown has been won through the sheer consistency of his whole string rather than the achievements of a select squad of superstars, and Nicholls believes it is a huge testament to his staff at his Somerset base that his string has continued to thrive throughout the campaign.
“To get to 14 championships is beyond my wildest dreams and to be a million (pounds) in front of Dan (Skelton), that’s a lot really,” continued Nicholls, speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing. “We’ve had some fantastic horses who have been consistent all season, and I’m thrilled.
“We set the record of prize-money that we won in a season back in 2008 and, of course, we had all those superstars – Master Minded, Denman, Kauto (Star), Neptune (Collonges) and Big Buck’s. We haven’t got quite that team now, so to do that now reflects well on the team as a whole.
“What I think is fantastic is we have had a 28 per cent strike-rate throughout the season. I think that reflects well on everybody – the team, the jockeys, the owners. Twenty-eight per cent strike-rate for the season is the best we’ve ever achieved, so that has been good.”
With 14 titles safely locked away in the Manor Farm trophy cabinet, Nicholls’ attention switches to next season where his immediate focus will be holding off the challenge of protegee Skelton and Nicky Henderson, while he also has the mammoth feat of 4,000 winners in his sights.
He said: “We’ll have to keep Dan at bay and Nicky has a lovely team of horses as well – he hasn’t quite had the winners this year, but he’s just as likely to bounce back.
“It’s always competitive, but those two seem to be the main threats in terms of the championship, and Fergal O’Brien is on the fringe of that. He’s done very well and probably just needs one or two better horses.
“The championship is all about prize-money and luckily we’ve trained both the most winners and earned the most money (this season) which is very satisfying.”
He went on: “I would love to train 4,000 jumps winners – no one has done that before – and I would love to be the first one to do it. Martin’s total was 3,900 and something, and we’re closing that down. And the championship – I would love to win that 16 times, of course I would.
“Martin was a brilliant trainer and there was not quite as much racing then, so to train the winners he did was incredible. It would be nice to either equal or beat that.”
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