If anyone knows the dilemma facing Harry Cobden ahead of next week’s King George VI Chase then it is Ruby Walsh, so this week’s intervention from Walsh on who Cobden should ride in the Boxing Day feature could be a significant one.
Surely Paul Nicholls’ stable jockey can’t get off last year’s winner, Clan Des Obeaux, can he? But by the same token, how can he not ride Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in training and the horse that brought Altior’s winning spree to a shuddering halt at Ascot last month.
Many will be envious of Cobden’s predicament, but with it comes the most intense pressure – followed by a detailed stewards enquiry within the media should things go wrong.
Ruby Walsh would have been in this sort of position a hundred times over at the peak of his power in the saddle, but this bears all the hallmarks of the decision Walsh faced going into the 2009 Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Walsh stayed loyal to Kauto Star who had carried him to victory in the race 12 months earlier – but Walsh would have known from about four fences out in that particular Gold Cup that he had made the wrong call.
So, how much notice will Harry Cobden take to Walsh’s comments in this week’s Racing Post, in which he said he would ride Cyrname in the King George, having also said that he would switch to Lostintranslation in the Gold Cup if he had such a choice?
What The Odds Say
Bookies certainly think Cobden will be influenced by such high-profile intervention. William Hill are going 1/4 that Cobden goes with Cyrname and 11/4 about Clan Des Obeaux.
“Ruby is advising he goes with Cyrname and we think he will take that advice,” said their spokesman Rupert Adams.
So, what are the pros and cons that might affect Cobden’s decision?
Let’s start with Clan Des Obeaux, the ‘been there and done it horse’. He’s a strong traveller who looks ideally suited by the demands of this race – a strongly-run 3m contest on a Flat track – as he proved when winning a stellar renewal of the race 12 months ago.
That was a peak career performance on the numbers and he looked on really good terms with himself at Down Royal on last month’s return before getting tired late on, although quite a few of the stable’s runners had been needing their first run at the time.
The King George will have been Clan Des Obeaux’s big mid-season target for a long time and it would be extremely difficult for any jockey to get off a horse with such a compelling profile for the race.
Cyrname Quite Rightly Favourite
But the glare of Cyrname might just be dazzling Cobden right now. He’s posted bigger numbers on his last two starts than Clan Des Obeaux ever has, and this improving 7yo is the only horse to lower the colours of the mighty Altior over fences.
Throw in the fact that he’s done it on a right-handed track (Ascot) and we almost have the perfect package. He is a relentless galloper who jumps his rivals into the ground and it’s easy to see why he is seen by many as the one they all have to beat on Boxing Day.
So, are there any potential negatives to Cyrname’s King George bid? Well, we might be clutching at straws but he’s not yet done it at Kempton, although it’s very difficult to see him not being effective around there given how well he operates going the same way round at Ascot.
Kempton is a bit sharper, but that might help him if anything, especially if he gets into a good rhythm on the front end.
Paul Nicholls revealed earlier this week that he thinks Harry Cobden has made up his mind but he doesn’t need to go public until he has to, and as is often the case, the ten-time champion trainer is spot on.
The vibes are that Cyrname is the mount of choice, and it’s oh so easy to see why, but, if that turns out to be the case, then Sam Twiston Davies will be gifted the most brilliant Christmas present any National Hunt jockey could wish for – he will get to ride last year’s winner.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Cobden got this wrong, just like Ruby Walsh did all those years ago, and he’ll know that as well as anyone.