Tom Marquand is one win away from riding out his claim
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Keith Melrose 9:49AM 28 JUN 2016
REIGNING champion apprentice Tom Marquand confessed the big challenge comes now as he prepares to ride out his claim.
The 18-year-old, who leads this year’s Stobart Champion Apprentice Jockeys’ Championship, is one winner away from losing his claim and his two rides at Brighton on Tuesday.
Marquand’s 92 successes in Britain and two in Australia earlier this year mean the next winner he rides will move him into competing with the best jockeys on an even footing.
The timing is no accident, as Marquand explained. “We’ve been taking it a bit easier for the last seven or eight months, protecting my claim over the winter and then for Royal Ascot in case some nice rides came up.
“But now the boss [Richard Hannon] has given me the all-clear and we can kick on.”
‘Make sure the rides keep coming’
Even Marquand , whose achievements last year were enough to have him shortlisted for BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year, admitted to some trepidation about the next stage once winner 95 arrives.
“I’m looking forward to getting it out of the way, because I want to see what happens. You hope, but you don’t know for certain if you’ll keep getting the support after your claim has gone and my main ambition for the season is to make sure those rides keep coming.”
Although the champion apprentice title has had a handful of post-War dual winners, including Lester Piggott and Joe Mercer, the last of them was Gary Bardwell in 1988. Marquand took a pragmatic view to his bid to join the club of dual champions.
“Last year we didn’t even really think about champion apprentice until July or August,” he said, “so we’re trying not to expect it this time. It’d be great to win it again and it’d mean loads to me and my agent Sash [Righton], but it’s not the be all and end all.
“It’s a competitive year again and there are plenty of good jockeys coming through at the same time, but if you gave me the choice between another champion apprentice title and a successful 20-year riding career as a fully-fledged jockey then I’d rather the latter.”
He added: “I’d like to have both, of course!”
Gordon giving chase
Marquand’s chances of landing a second title remain strong at this admittedly early stage. He started the week on 18 winners, one ahead of Josephine Gordon, with a small gap back to the rest. Gordon’s major plus is she has more than 40 winners to go before she arrives at the same crossroads Marquand has reached.
While he may not be a claimer for long, Marquand can remain in the running for the champion apprentice title.
Any apprentice or conditional who rides out their claim can defer taking out their full jockeys’ licence for six months, or until their licence is due for renewal. Any winners they ride in this period therefore count towards their total as an apprentice and thus towards the champion apprentice standings.