By Ray Hickson
Tom Marquand is grateful for the opportunities he's had to ride in Sydney in the past month or so, especially with racing back home in the UK currently suspended, and is rapt to be heading home in just over a week as a Group 1 winning jockey.
The rising star hoop talks about being embarrassed, a little, about his popularity with local punters, how his workload differs to back home, how he's handling the coronavirus restrictions, his Group 1 rides on Addeybb and Young Rascal at Randwick on Saturday and, most importantly, will we be seeing him again.
Does it surprise you how much you’ve been embraced by racing fans this year, so much so they call you Aussie Tom?
"I find it a bit strange because it almost feels like I’ve got a bigger reputation here than I do at home. I ride flat out for 10 months of the year and ride as many as I possibly can, pump out winners, and yet here where I feel like I’m not really doing a lot it’s where people notice. Whatever it is I like it, I’ve been pretty lucky here with the success I've had."
A lot of people comment on how strong you are, where does that strength come from and how much do you work on it?
"Year round I work extremely hard in the gym and it's one of the things I’ve never taken to chance. For as long as you can stay fit and strong you have no excuse not to. English racing has taken a big step forward in that regard over the last few years. It seems to be a growing thing within racing that fitness can’t be underestimated. The English style of riding is very different, though, so it is probably more exaggerated by that fact. It’s a more aggressive way of riding but we have soft ground and undulating tracks and we ride over a trip more often so (strength) is a necessity at home."
When you look at English racing at the moment, sitting there in limbo, how lucky do you feel to be here?
"I’ve been so fortunate with the timing, it’s been a complete stroke of luck that I came back when I did. If I’d come a week later the two week quarantine would have been in so I would have missed the first couple of weeks and it would be a completely different dynamic for the trip. Now I’m coming to the other end of it and trying to make a move home it’s going to be pretty tricky. After The Championships home is where I want to be because they are hoping to start getting basic racing back up and running which I want to be around for."
What is the vibe from talking to people back home about the racing situation?
"The general scene at home is pretty desperate, but it’s pretty desperate over here and we’ve managed to keep racing. The Guineas, The Derby and the Oaks have been rescheduled, Royal Ascot looks like being run behind closed doors. They are clearly starting to take major steps in what they hope is the road back to get racing going again."
How are you handling the restrictions on jockeys which are necessary to keep racing going and how do you fill in your spare time?
"I rented a nice place (near the city) so I’m well based and trying to cycle and walk a bit, apart from that not a lot else. I’ve been smashing Netflix, watching absolutely anything. I’m not going to lie, I’m one of the lucky ones as the restrictions haven’t made much difference to me. I don’t do trackwork every day normally, riding just in the metro area you’re only missing one day of riding a week so it doesn’t feel like a significant loss. I’ve not had to adjust what I’m doing too much."
Given that, what is your workload typically like back in England?
"We’re allowed to ride at nine meetings in seven days, it’s completely relentless. I enjoy it, you probably wouldn’t be able to do it if you didn’t enjoy it. I was home for nine months last year and I managed 1100 rides in England. It’s full on. Over here it feels like I’m slacking, it’s weird because going flat out seven days a week is what I’m used to. So to come over here and ride three times a week and for that to be considered sensibly hard work it seems madness."
How long did it take for your first Group 1 win, on Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes, to sink in?
"It was a huge day, it was aboard an English horse and that made it sweeter. But when I spoke to home that was when it really started to hit home. It was a pretty cool way to do it and hopefully he can give me another one before I go back. I’ve been riding a number of winners over the last few years but what are numbers without a Group 1. A Group 1 just solidifies everything you have been doing, any jockey wants to be a Group 1 jockey. You can’t do any better than that."
Is how you rode Addeybb at Rosehill the best way to ride him or does he have other tricks up his sleeve you can use in the Longines Queen Elizabeth?
"That’s probably not the way to ride him in actual fact. I thought we would get a lead into the race but the way it developed early, because English horses have a different run style to home, that was the reason I rode him like I did. He won at Royal Ascot by three lengths from the back, he is certainly not a one trick pony."
It's a really good quality field and he came over with a big reputation, is he good enough to win?
"Everyone is going to be asking the question, but he’s won a Group 1 to a mare who backed up and absolutely tore apart a field a week later. I think if that’s not good enough to be contending in a Group 1 then I don’t know what else is. He can’t have gone in with better credentials."
Young Rascal showed plenty of fight with a big weight in the Manion Cup, how confident are you he will run 3200m?
"Most horses that can stay an English mile and a half would stay an Australian two miles just through the way races are run over here. He’s pretty dour in the way he goes about it over a mile and a half normally. If he’s going to get the two miles it’ll be here and personally I’m not worried about him getting the trip. Because he hadn’t had the run under his belt I guess he was the one there was more of a question mark over so for him to win he’s definitely got bags of improvement left. It puts him where we want him."
You leave after Saturday week’s Randwick meeting, is this extended visit the last we are going to see of Tom Marquand in Sydney?
"The reason I started coming is it fits in nicely with the English season and it’s by no means something that will have to stop or remotely slow down. If anything it makes it a touch easier to go back and get off the mark at home when I come back from Australia if I keep doing these trips."
Your partner Hollie Doyle is a super talent, are you going to be able to convince her to come with you?
"She’s in a tricky position with the job she has because Archie (Watson) has runners all year whereas I don’t have a job like that. Hopefully it is something that can happen in the next couple of years because she’s proven she is one of the best female riders that has ridden in England by breaking the record and she’s light at as well so it makes it more attractive for her to come down here."