Why Tom Marquand is hoping to make it a special day for Balding family in the Derby

Tom Marquand is the first to admit that his first ride in the Epsom Derby was one of the more bizarre in the celebrated race’s 241-year history.

Tom Marquand rides Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit in today's Epsom Derby.

His perceived inexperience saw him ‘jocked off’ leading contender English King before picking up a spare ride on the 50-1 outsider Khalifa Sat.

While the Andrew Balding-trained ride ironically beat the Frankie Dettori-ridden English King in the race for second, Marquand never felt competitive.

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This was Youth Spirit and Tom Marquand (green cap) winning the Chester Vase ahead of a tilt at today's Cazoo Derby.

This was because Aidan O’Brien’s supposed pacesetter Serpentine was so far clear of his rivals under Emmet McNamara that he was never caught.

However, this experience is also instructive when it comes to the rise of Marquand – not least the strength of his association with Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas and his globetrotting superstar Addeybb.

It showed him how to ride out racing’s fickle fates with quiet determination and dignity, plus it helped him catch the eye of O’Brien’s son Joseph, another top trainer who did not hesitate to book Marquand for the St Leger-winning ride at Doncaster on Galileo Chrome.

This was Tom Marquand and Addeybb winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, Sydney, in April.

It means he rides Youth Spirit in today’s Cazoo Derby. Like Khalifa Sat, he is owned by Ahmad Al Shaikh and trained by Balding as he seeks to win the blue riband race 50 years after his father, Ian, saddled Mill Reef – one of the all-time great thoroughbreds – to an iconic victory on the Epsom Downs.

Youth Spirit heads to Epsom on the back of a dominant win in the Chester Oaks and is one of the few horses with proven form over a mile-and-a-half – the question is whether the colt’s rivals have done enough to catch up?

“The whole Balding family – all they do comes from the legacy that Ian Balding has created and I’m privileged to ride for them in the Derby on such a special anniversary,” Marquand told The Yorkshire Post.

“It’s an amazing story and Andrew is a very effective trainer. It’s also special to be asked to ride for them because I spent a month at Kingsclere (the Balding stables) when I was 15. I was all set to join them when I left school but I ended up at (Richard) Hannon’s. There hasn’t been much chance to ride for them to be honest – they keep everything loyal and very tight-knit.”

This explains why Marquand became so phlegmatic about last year’s Derby. Asked what he learned from the actual race, he was blunt: “Not an awful lot.”

But, pressed on how the build-up helped him as a jockey, he was more forthcoming. “It’s the game we are in,” reflected Marquand. “It’s a competitive sport and days like that remind you that it is.

“It’s a great sport that shows you that everything can come round in your favour – even when you think that it can’t. It’s a pretty good life lesson. But I probably won a St Leger because I got jocked off in the Derby.”

Marquand’s domestic campaign has certainly hit top gear this week after trebles at Windsor, Leicester and Chelmsford, though he was out of luck at Ripon.

He is also looking forward to riding Champion Stakes hero Addeybb – potentially at Royal Ascot if there is rain in the interim.

Even at this early stage in the 23-year-old’s career, he realises few future wins will eclipse the exhilaration when Addeybb won a second successive Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Australia in April.

“The hoops and loops to jump through in lockdown – and then get the job done,” said Marquand who turned down the chance to ride Addeybb on the gallops this week because he wanted to spend time getting to know some potential future stars at the Haggas yard.

But this certainly gives his confidence that he can win on the biggest stages of all – especially after Youth Spirit’s win at Chester.

“To be fair, it took a good bit of boot to win round Chester and its tight turns,” he added. “He’s going to need the race of his life – and whether it is good enough to win a Derby, time will tell.”

Meanwhile, Snowfall – winner of last month’s Musidora Stakes at York – stunned her Cazoo Oaks rivals as she triumphed by a distance in the Classic yesterday.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Frankie Dettori, she was a record 16-length winner from Mystery Angel for the Nick Bradley Racing syndicate which is based at Barton-upon-Humber.

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