Marquand’s Melbourne target and JRA hopes

Tom Marquand is working hard to consolidate his status at home, and his postseason rewards might be a Melbourne spring and another winter in Japan.

Tom Marquand is seeking another short-term JRA licence. (Photo by umanimiserarete)

David Morgan

Chief Journalist


A Melbourne Cup ride and a winter return to Japan are high on Tom Marquand’s wish list, but before he starts looking at flight schedules, the elite rider is focused on an autumn push at home to ensure he closes out another strong domestic campaign at maximum tilt.

“We’ve just organised to go down to Melbourne for the Cup and Japan is fully on the agenda of what I want to do, and high on the priority list, to be honest,” he tells Asian Racing Report as he stands outside the Ripon weighing room.

Marquand has just ridden a winner for his main backer William Haggas, a 10-furlong restricted maiden on Ripon racecourse’s tricky, rolling undulations. It was a comfortable score on the filly, Exposed, whose two and a quarter lengths superiority confirmed her 2-5 favouritism over the William Buick-ridden Sindri.

Buick currently has Marquand a well-held second in the title race though. A blank for the champion from three rides in North Yorkshire ends the run of six consecutive wins he notched across the preceding two days, but Marquand’s Ripon score barely dents Buick’s lead in the title race, which now stands at 19.

With such a deficit to make up, Marquand knows a first champion jockey title is unlikely this year, but he is not dwelling on that reality, nor is he letting it diminish his fixed dedication to riding winners.


“You have to turn up and try to ride winners wherever you go, because if you let it consume you, I think ultimately it’s not going to get you any closer to winning it, nor is it going to do justice to any of the people you’re riding for or any of the horses you’re riding,” he says sagely.

“Without the people supporting you, you can’t be champion jockey anyway, so you probably have to keep your sights firmly aligned on what actually matters in that scenario, and it’s not being champion jockey, it’s doing right by the people around you that can propel you to be champion jockey.”

Marquand, 25, and his wife, Hollie Doyle, both harbour strong ambitions to be champion. Last year the couple ended the campaign closest to Buick, with 91 wins apiece, and this time around Marquand has 72 wins to Doyle’s 67.

“We’re all well aware how fantastic William is going and we’re all doing our best” Marquand continues. “It’s a ‘what will be, will be’ situation because myself, Hollie and William alike, we’ve all got our foot on the gas and there are no more gears left, this is all we’ve got, so it runs its course now, whatever that may be.”

Tom Marquand wins the The King George V Stakes on Desert Hero at Royal Ascot. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst)

The outcome will be known for certain at the close of British Champions Day at Ascot on October 21. Seventeen days later, Marquand and Doyle hope to be at Flemington for the G1 Melbourne Cup before heading north to Japan and Hong Kong, if the Asian powerhouses invite them back.

“Australia has been great for me, it’s been a big part of my career, and potentially Desert Hero could be my ride in the Cup, he’s entered; it depends on what he does in the St Leger,” Marquand says.

“But we’re hoping even if that doesn’t materialise, I might be able to pick up something, and Hollie’s organised to go as well. We’ll be fighting tooth and nail to find a couple of rides on the day.”

Doyle spoke recently to Asian Racing Report about her desire to return to Japan this winter and how much she loved the experience last year. Marquand’s countenance lights up similarly as he recalls the two-month stint last November and December.

“It’s something we absolutely loved doing and we want to go back again to try and further that experience and see how we go. And obviously there’s Hong Kong in the middle of that as well, which is fantastic, and we’ve both been fortunate to have a bit of luck there too,” he says.

“Japan is one of those places that gives you an amazing experience as a jockey to be able to go and see that because it’s such a select field that gets to do it. It was nice getting to experience that together with Hollie because when we travel, except for a couple of days in Hong Kong for the IJC, we’ve always been separate, so it was cool experiencing that together. Even going up and seeing Northern Farm, it’s another world, it’s gorgeous; and everything is so well-organised and set up properly.”

Marquand’s debut stint on the JRA yielded a good haul of 16 wins, and he hopes that will help him secure a coveted short-term licence again this winter.

Tom Marquand scores aboard Sumo Sam at Goodwood. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

“We’ll both be applying for Japan, hoping we’ll get a similar licence to last year, and hopefully the JRA will invite us,” he says.

“Last year we got the full two months and we’re hoping and praying we get the same again, but you just don’t know until the applications have gone in and everything. They get the best jockeys in the world applying, so it’s not just a case of putting your paperwork in and just expecting, it’s a challenge to get in.”

If he does get the nod, he would also be open to experiencing Japan’s second tier, the NAR local government racing circuit, which stages the G1 Tokyo Daishoten at Oi on December 29 this year.

“We didn’t go to the NAR, there was one midweek we thought about going to but it never materialised,” he says. “The big race just after Christmas on the NAR, I’d happily go and ride on a big day like that.”

But next up he has half a dozen rides at Newbury to think about, then Kempton, Ffos Las, Sandown, and Brighton to see out the week.

Japan, Australia, Hong Kong: they’re the high-profile gloss, but those bread-and-butter rides at run-of-the-mill meetings day in, day out through the British season are the platform that enables the big days on foreign shores: they are the substance that might one day deliver a dreamed-of champion jockey title.  




    Subscribe now & get exclusive weekly content from Asian Racing Report direct to your inbox

      Expert ratings, tips & analysis for Hong Kong racing