Sean Bowen sets sights on title charge after injury comeback

By Sports Desk February 08, 2024

Title-chasing rider Sean Bowen was delighted to return to the saddle at Huntingdon on Thursday, despite being narrowly denied a dream comeback aboard Roccovango.

The 26-year-old has been leading the race to be crowned this season’s champion jockey for several months, but has been sidelined by an injury since suffering a nasty fall from from Gordon Elliott’s Farren Glory in the Grade One Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Boxing Day.

During the intervening period, Harry Cobden has significantly eroded Bowen’s advantage, with only four winners splitting the top two prior to Thursday’s action.

Bowen headed to Huntingdon for a solitary ride for his boss Olly Murphy, with Roccovango a 3-1 shot for the Mulberry Developments Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

Despite being hard at work some way from home, Roccovango responded to his rider’s urgings to ensure he was still in the fight jumping the final flight, but in the end he had to make do with the runner-up spot, going down by a neck to 11-10 favourite Nordic Tiger.

“It’s nice to be back and the horse ran well. We didn’t quite get there in the end, but it was a nice one to get me back started on,” Bowen said.

“To be fair he absolutely winged the last and showed a good attitude, but he just couldn’t get me the fairy tale comeback.

“All felt in good working order and I’m good to go.”

When asked if it has been tough watching Cobden eat into his lead since the turn of the year, the jockey added: “You can’t get frustrated by it because when I was off, unless Harry was doing something seriously wrong, he was going to ride a lot of winners in that time.

“It was inevitable what was going to happen and I just need to come back and ride plenty of winners.”

Weather permitting, Bowen’s next port of call is Kempton on Friday before he heads to Newbury to partner the Murphy-trained Go Dante in the Betfair Hurdle.

The latter has been saved for this lucrative prize since winning at Cheltenham in mid-December and his rider is looking forward to being reunited with the eight-year-old this weekend.

“I’ll have a couple of warm-up rides and he’s the exciting one for the weekend,” said Bowen.

“I saw him the other day and he seems in really good form, so he’s one you’ve got to be looking forward to.”

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    The Alcester trainer was a little shy of £31,000 adrift of Irish champion Willie Mullins on the leaderboard ahead of the meeting, the first day of the valuable Coral Scottish Grand National fixture which could prove so pivotal in the destination of the title, in which Paul Nicholls will also have a big say.

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    Speaking to Racing TV after Punta Del Este’s win, Skelton said: “I’m sure all the mathematicians will be calculating it all, but tomorrow’s the important day for the championship.

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