Rising British star Tom Marquand will use vital experience gleaned on tight-turning tracks in England and Australia to offset a lack of familiarity with Happy Valley’s famed contours when he tackles the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship on Wednesday, 9 December.
Seeking to bookend a phenomenal season, the 22-year-old will partner Very Sweet Orange, Nunchuks, Surrealism and Wind N Grass in the HK$800,000 four-race contest and hopes he can share the limelight – and spoils – with partner and fellow jockey Hollie Doyle.
“Fingers crossed we can walk away with a winner or two apiece,” Marquand, winner of Group 1 contests in England and Australia this year, said.
“Some of the tracks in Australia aren’t too dissimilar (to Happy Valley) with the tightness and the ground being generally being a little bit quicker than in England.
“But we’ve got tight tracks in England like Chester. It’s on another level to over here perhaps.
“Happy Valley is certainly a different track. It’s a test of a jockey and a horse being such a sharp, almost speed-orientated track. So, while it will be a little bit different, very looking forward to tackling it with a great book of rides for both of us.”
Marquand revealed exposure to Hong Kong races via international broadcasts beamed into England provided the framework of his Happy Valley expectations.
“It’s (Hong Kong racing) always on our TV and we’re lucky to have that understanding of the way the races work, even from England,” Marquand, fresh from a double at Wolverhampton on Saturday, 5 December, said.
“(Wolverhampton is) not quite so glamorous as some of the days we’ve been lucky to have this year but, in all seriousness, it’s massive coming into a day’s racing like this having your confidence up.
“It’s been a busy old year and it’s easy to forget the good days I’ve had at smaller meetings, not just the days at Doncaster and Ascot, for example.”
A former champion apprentice, Marquand has already bettered his previous season-best haul of 136 winners with 141 to date – and he is not finished yet.
Apart from his four LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship mounts, he will also partner Red Majesty in the Class 4 France Handicap (1650m) and PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin) Donc Je Suis in the Class 4 Mauritius Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley.
The Englishman will take three rides at Sha Tin on Sunday (13 December).
“The Hong Kong Jockey Club has gone to great lengths to get us over so it seemed a shame to go home and not have an opportunity to ride at Sha Tin as well,” he said.
“By the look of it, I’ve got three rides – none in the international races, all in the local races as such – but really looking to getting out there on Sunday as well.”
Doyle best’s chance in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship is the David Hayes-trained Harmony N Blessed in the fourth leg of the series, a Class 3 contest over 1200m.
Hayes is confident the last-start debut winner can again contend.
“He’s very professional and he did everything right at Sha Tin,” he said.
“He looks like he likes the Valley. I know he hasn’t raced there but his trials have been excellent.
“You never know until they race, but he’s a pretty straight-forward horse. He should be OK.
“He’s probably eating better now than he was before the first run, so that’s a good sign.
“It’s a nice competitive race. Good step up, light weight so hopefully he can handle it.”
The dual champion trainer has full confidence in Doyle’s ability.
“Her record overseas is too good to be concerned about having her on the horse. I think she’ll do a good job,” he said.
Doyle’s other jockey championship mounts are Happily Friends, Universal Go Go and Sunny Lad.
Wednesday’s LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship meeting at Happy Valley starts at 6.30pm with the running of the Class 5 Australia Handicap (1650m).