“Sweat, blood, mud, they looked like they were coming back from battle,” recalled Marquand as he reflected on the sight of equine warriors cantering home after long-distance races.
It explains why the jockey reflected on his racing roots in the aftermath of his Pertemps St Leger win at Doncaster last weekend on the Joseph O’Brien-trained Galileo Chrome.
It was a chance spare ride after the horse’s intended rider, Shane Crosse, tested positive for Covid-19 and Marquand made the most of his unexpected opportunity.
The victory was further reaffirmation that Flat racing is now blessed by another gifted – and eloquent – horseman who has not looked back in 2020 since riding two Group One wins on Addeybb in Australia during the lockdown.
Today, Marquand heads to Ayr to partner Addeybb in the Doonside Cup ahead of next month’s Qipco British Champions Day meeting at Ascot. David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters is among the rivals in Scotland.
The 22-year-old, second only to defending champion Oisin Murphy in this year’s title race, does so buoyed by his St Leger win while being eternally grateful for a childhood in Cheltenham, the home of National Hunt (NH) racing.
“That was one of the main reasons why I got half interested in racing,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I didn’t go to school when Cheltenham was on. I only thought about being a jump jockey until quite a sensible age. When I was 13 or 14, I started thinking about the Flat.
“I got lucky with my height and weight – it’s only now, looking back, that it would have been a lot harder life riding over jumps.”
Marquand, whose long-term partner Hollie Doyle continues to take her career to new heights as racing becomes enchanted by this couple, says he thought, in the aftermath of his St Leger win, to his times riding in the countryside – or for NH trainers like Jonjo O’Neill and Tony Carroll.
They were formative times because his proud parents were from a non-racing background. So, too, was pony racing. “It’s getting more and more coverage because of its importance,” he observes.
“I was quite a later starter at 13. Many of the riders I faced started at nine but it was great fun.” Also very competitive. They might have been friends, says Marquand, but no quarter was given. “All you want to do is win.”
It was a good foretaste of a jockey’s life. It also helped that he had a pony in Glebedale Stopwatch who has nurtured other young riders before Marquand began his racing career with Flat trainer Richard Hannon and not looked back.
Champion apprentice in 2015 at the age of 17, and a nominee for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, it was only a matter of time before he won a first Classic.
His successful stint in Australia, where even the locals took him to his heart, saw Marquand excel in a different jurisdiction before returning to Britain with even more confidence rather than arrogance.
Now a fabled St Leger cap has been added to his accolades, he says: “It’s pretty mental. Even three or four years ago, I didn’t think it would all come so soon.
“There are five Classics a year. It’s hard to win a race and hard to win a Listed race. Then a Group One and then a Classic. It seems crazy. I’m very lucky that everything has fallen in place. It’s the pinnacle and it means a hell of a lot.”
Marquand is slightly taken aback by how much his St Leger win has meant to so many people. Equally, he says he is in debt to all those who supported him in his early years and lent him ponies to ride.
“They are the ones that made it happen,” adds the modest Marquand before he speaks about the influence of Addeybb’s trainer, William Haggas, and his wife Maureen.
“The last year-and-a-half, they’ve been pivotal to what’s gone on with horses like Addeybb. But it’s also the support away from the racing side of things – I am lucky to be in a position to ride for people like them.”
It works both ways. They, too, are fortunate to have a jockey as gifted as Tom Marquand.
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