Harry Cobden: Off To Aintree We Go

Blogs | 6th April 2022

Harry Cobden heads up to Liverpool for the start of the world famous Grand National Festival.  Get his exclusive thoughts as he looks ahead to a big week.

The Grand National Festival at Aintree is a massive part of my season and an event I feel hugely privileged to be involved in.

The racecourse is an amazing place that’s brimming with sporting history. The atmosphere there on Friday and Saturday in particular will be absolutely crackling – as a jockey you don’t get much bigger buzzes than when you’re lining up to start a race over the National fences.

Hopefully the horses we’ve saved back for this Festival can show themselves to be in good heart. Aintree is a place l I’ve enjoyed some great days at, so hopefully I can bag a couple of winners before the curtain comes down on Saturday afternoon.

My First Big Fence Experience – a 50/1 winner!

I still remember the first time I rode over the famous Aintree fences like it was yesterday. It was 2017, I was 18 years-old and remember feeling pretty anxious ahead of a ride in the Topham Handicap – which takes place over the National fences on Friday.  

Before the race, as part of industry procedure, all jockeys having their first ride over the special fences had to take part in a course walk with an experienced professional (or ex-professional).

Our group had two-time Grand National winning jockey Carl Llewellyn and he was absolutely brilliant. He was really informative and the whole process certainly helped me a lot.

He really drilled home that it’s all about getting the horse into a rhythm, giving them a really clear sight of the big fences and that you can’t try anything too clever. It’s all about getting safely from A to B.   

By the time we lined up I was hugely excited for the challenge ahead. The horse I was riding, Ultragold, was 50/1 and there wasn’t any expectation on us to win. I could just enjoy the experience and low and behold the horse actually ended up winning!

He took to the course like a duck to water and it was one of the most phenomenal thrills I’ve ever had. Something I’ll never forget.

Ultragold Harry Cobden
Ultragold and Harry Cobden on their way to winning the Topham Handicap Chase

My Friday Rides

1:45pm – Pic D’Orhy

If I’m honest this doesn’t look the strongest of Grade 1 events. There doesn’t appear to be a superstar in the race and it looks very winnable. 

Our horse seems to be in good form at home and has had a nice break since his win at Kempton in February. Hopefully we don’t get too much rain beforehand as that won’t help his chances.

The flat track at Aintree should suit him nicely and we go there with as good a chance as anything else in the race.

2:55pm – Clan Des Obeaux (Best Chance)

He seems to be in good form at home after a slightly disappointing run at Newbury.

I just picked up the impression he wasn’t quite concentrating fully on the job that day, so we’re going to run him in blinkers tomorrow for the first time

Blinkers often have the biggest effect on a horse’s performance the first time you use them, so we’re hoping that’s the case tomorrow.

This may seem bold, but I actually think he’s my best chance of the week. I’m really excited about him.

Protektorat ran well to finish third in the Gold Cup and is the horse with the best form in the race. But I’ve a suspicion he had a very hard race at Cheltenham and I think our fella could be coming back to form perfectly in time for this. 

3:30 – Monmiral  

Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Monmrial so far this season. But there’s no doubt this horse is very talented and we still have plenty of faith we’ll get the best out of him.

He had an injury at the start of the season and his most recent run at Fontwell was more promising than initial viewing would make you think.

Put simply, he was a gallop short of peak fitness as we didn’t want to overdo things on his first run back after a break. He comes into this test in much, much better shape.

He has to improve a lot to get on terms with horses like Epatante. But I’ve got faith that he’ll run a good race and still be in with a squeak coming to the last.

4:40 – Dolos

A nice horse who bucked the negative yard form trend back in January by winning at Sandown. He looks very slick at home and appears to be in particularly rude health with a very glossy coat.

He does seem to save his best form for Sandown, but  I see no reason why Aintree wouldn’t suit him.

I was happy to see Sky Pirate was left in the race as that means we’ll be racing off a much nicer weight. He’d have an each-way chance, for sure.  

5:15 – Iliad Allen

She makes her debut for the yard, having finished second at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. I rode her this week and she felt great on the gallops.

She did everything nicely and the yard think a lot of her. It’s hard for me to say with confidence that we think she’ll be competitive in a tough race like this, but I think the flatter test at Aintree should suit her because she appeared to get a little weary when racing up the hill at Cheltenham last time.

She’s only four-years-old too, so she receives a weight-allowance from her older rivals. She’s not a small horse, so that weight will