The friendly fight for Jumps crown: Champion jockey rivals Harry Cobden and Sean Bowen are mates from school who are fighting to the wire for the top prize

The race to be crowned Champion Jump Jockey is going to the wire, but do not expect the pressure to affect Harry Cobden or Sean Bowen.

With a friendship that goes back to their schooldays, there is no chance of emotions boiling over between these two as Cobden — who has 156 victories from 667 rides so far — looks to maintain his 14-winner lead over Bowen.

During a weather enforced break from the action on Friday, Mail Sport discovered on a video call the depth of the bond between the two men — and witnessed an unexpected promise being made.


Cobden, 25, and Bowen, 26, first met when they were nine-year-olds racing ponies. They later both worked as conditional riders for Paul Nicholls. Cobden is now stable jockey to the Champion trainer, Bowen rides primarily for Olly Murphy.

Harry Cobden is leading the race to be crowned Champion Jump Jockey this season by 14 wins

Harry Cobden is leading the race to be crowned Champion Jump Jockey this season by 14 wins

His closest rival is Sean Bowen, and they have known each other since they were nine years old

His closest rival is Sean Bowen, and they have known each other since they were nine years old

BOWEN: Where’ve you been?

COBDEN: I’m at the market. I’ve just bought 26 cattle.

BOWEN (laughing): A lot of joking goes on in the weighing room that you aren’t a jockey, you’re just basically a farmer. This proves my point!

COBDEN: I don’t know what’s going on, but a lot of stick seems to be coming my way at the minute! It’s from you and your shadow, Charlie Hammond, and your brother, James. You keep coming after me! Seriously, the old valets tells us stories about Richard Dunwoody.

When he was going for the title, he was absolutely ruthless. The Championship was everything to him, he’d go halfway across the track to stop a rival. I don’t think there’s been one moment between us this year, has there? It’s amazing, really.

BOWEN: The only time you’ve said something to me was at Ascot in November. I rode Strong Leader and jumped across you at the second last hurdle. You won the race (on Blueking D’Oroux) but pulled up after the line and said (laughing as he impersonates him): “Oh man! What were you doing!”

COBDEN: That’s about as bad as it gets!


Bowen was 47 winners clear of Cobden on October 6 and still had an advantage of 30 at Christmas but a crashing fall at Aintree on Boxing Day led to a six-week injury absence. Cobden took spectacular advantage but his empathy is clear.

BOWEN: I bought a new car at the start of last September. I live not far from Bath and I’ve had 651 rides so far. We are now at the start of April and it’s got 45,000 miles on it.

COBDEN: You’d have been going to Perth every week in the summer, too, as well. You probably did as many miles then as you’ve done in the winter. Riding the horses is the easy bit. It’s the owners, the trainers and all the other things that you have to deal with.

Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of bloody hard work. It’s as mentally draining as it is physically.

BOWEN: But if you want to be Champion, you’ve got to put in that work. It’s paid off for both us, though, hasn’t it? Nobody ever became champion jockey without putting the work in.

COBDEN: You’re right — there’s a lot of respect as well. I’ve been lucky not to be injured at all this year — touch wood that stays the same for the next three weeks. Let’s face it, I’d say I’d have been behind now without you being off those six weeks. Every time you go out, you are one fall away from everything changing.

BOWEN: What a day that was at Christmas. It looked like I was going to win a big race on Farren Glory for Gordon Elliott. When I came down, I actually walked back. I initially thought it was going to be a couple of days and I’d be grand. It ended up being six weeks. But it’s part of sport.

COBDEN: We didn’t speak once during that six weeks. How could I have picked up the phone to you and say: “How are you doing, mate?” when you knew you were going to be off. I actually spoke to my valet about it. He just told me: “Leave it — he’ll be back when he’s ready.”

I’ll give you a good example. I fell off one at Aintree three years ago, the horse stood on my face and I broke my cheek bone. It meant I couldn’t ride Clan Des Obeaux in the Punchestown Gold Cup. When I watched him win, I was absolutely devastated. I didn’t want to see anyone.

Cobden has promised to buy Bowen a meal if his older friend is victorious

Bowen joked that he would 'settle' for a McDonald's Happy Meal after the title race

Both men will have ample opportunities in the coming weeks at Aintree, Ayr and Sandown


Both men will have ample opportunities in the coming weeks at Aintree, Ayr and Sandown.

Only 41 men have been crowned champion jump jockey since the title’s inception in 1900 and they are desperate to win. It won’t, though, affect anything between them off the track.

COBDEN: If you win — and I’m saying “if” because I’m hoping not — I will be the first to shake your hand and I will definitely take you out for a meal. I’ve said it.

BOWEN: I was thinking I might buy you another cow but tell you what I’ll settle for a McDonald’s Happy Meal instead!

To find out more about the 2024 Jump Jockeys’ Championship visit:

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