Tom Marquand joins O'Shea for second Aussie stint

6 min read
Champion British Apprentice Tom Marquand ventured to Victoria in 2016 and hit a note with three winners from nine rides when based with David Hayes. He has decided to return for another six weeks and is set to join the John O'Shea stable with the hope that it could propel his career even further.

Tom Marquand’s first visit to Australia was something of a happy accident. Freshly minted as champion British apprentice, he was under instructions from his employer Richard Hannon not to extinguish the remainder of his claim and was expecting to largely be fulfilling a month’s trackwork obligations for the David Hayes stable on a scholarship funded by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour.

It proved to be such an eye-opening and rewarding experience that, three years on and now established on the fringes of the domestic top-20, he has decided to return for another six weeks with the hope that it could propel him even further.

“I was very lucky, the Hayeses put me on a horse called Tashbeeh (Aus) (Commands {Aus}) before I got on the plane, I rode him on my second day out there and on my first ride won a 100-grand handicap at Caulfield,” he says.

“I was very lucky, the Hayeses put me on a horse called Tashbeeh before I got on the plane." - Tom Marquand

“Then on my third-last day in the country he ran again at Flemington and won. It was my first winner for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and I couldn’t have asked for a better start, in England or anywhere. It was also nice to have a winner that was relatable to England as well, because when you’re on the other side of the world it’s kind of easy for people back home to forget what you’re doing.”

Jockey, Tom Marquand (image courtesy of Racing Fotos)

A change in tactics

On that second strike, in the Doriemus H., he beat the legendary Damien Oliver in a tight finish. Although that kudos was a welcome bonus, it was dealing with the change of tactics which left the longer-lasting impression.

He explains: “The race-riding out there is so much different, even the untrained eye can tell that watching it. It sharpens you up, and opens your mind a bit into different ways of riding. It’s very easy to get stuck into the monotony of all-weather racing and riding the same.

"It sharpens you up, and opens your mind a bit into different ways of riding." - Tom Marquand

Tom Marquand

“It doesn’t so much happen faster, but things develop at a different rate and at a different time to in England. It has you concentrated 100% of the time. That’s sort of the main reason I wanted to go over, to have a proper stab at getting into the full swing of it and get used to it. I’ve not met a jockey who’s come back worse from Australia, anyway.

A strong argument

“James Doyle had a strong old argument for how good it was last winter when he went out there and he has come back and ridden better than he ever has in my eyes, and I think in the eyes of a lot of others as well.”

This week Marquand flies out to Sydney and will spend his time at Randwick with John O’Shea.

"There’s always the possibility to go back to Melbourne next year instead." - Tam Marquand

“The Hayeses were very kind and I was actually going to ask them if they’d have me back but a lot of people said try Sydney once, if I enjoy it, I enjoy it, go back, but there’s always the possibility to go back to Melbourne next year instead.

Tom will be heading to Randwick to spend time with John O'Shea

“I started to organise it myself but our assistant trainer at Hannons’, Tom Ward, was foreman for John O’Shea for quite a few years when he was with Godolphin, so it was nice and easy to set up and understand what was wanted from both ends.

First century

“Most people know his reputation, he’s a renowned master for training horses, jockeys, people, trainers alike. We’ve spoken a couple of times on the phone and he’s been an absolute gent organising things for me. Hopefully it can work out well and I can come back having learned a bit more.”

O’Shea should not fail to take to the well-mannered and personable 20-year-old. He has also been in inspired form of late, recently passing 100 winners for 2018 and cultivating a useful secondary association with William Haggas. The trainer provided part of a treble at Kempton earlier this month which also included success on Spark Plug (Ire) (Dylan Thomas {Ire} in the L. Wild Flower S.

“Mr Haggas has got some really nice horses in, he’s a phenomenal trainer and his strike-rate and record speaks for itself,” he says. “To be riding for set ups like him and the boss, you can’t really ask for an awful lot more I don’t think.

“The century was a target, big time." - Tom Marquand

“The century was a target, big time. Last year Sash (Righton, agent) and I got quite close at 86, not painfully close so we could take it, but it would have been harder taking going to Australia a couple of weeks before the end of the year getting even closer, say finishing one or two short. Then I ended up riding seven or eight winners in a few days and did it. It’s ridiculous how it works sometimes.”

Tom Marquand celebrating riding his first century of winners

Marquand admits that he saw little of Melbourne beyond Flemington and the Hayes/Tom Dabernig private base in Euroa and would like to attempt at least a few of Sydney’s sights. If he is to maintain domestic harmony, however, it might be advisable to use some restraint with the Bondi Beach and Harbour Bridge selfies as his long-term girlfriend Hollie Doyle, another of the country’s most promising young riders, will be confined to the chilly British winter circuit.

“She was initially thinking of coming with me but (trainer) Archie Watson has snapped her up and that’s all gone really well,” he says before adding convincingly: “She doesn’t want to come, which is a brilliant thing because she’s got something she wants to stay for, and it’s worthwhile.

“She’s having plenty of winners and rides for different trainers, she’s of the view just to keep on kicking and be in a good position to improve from last year.”

Marquand might not make such an immediate impact on a metropolitan track this time around. Nonetheless, with close to 1000 rides under his belt this year and an enduring partnership with Hannon which has included the G3 Supreme S. on Anna Nerium (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and an opportunity aboard the 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}) in the G1 Nassau S., he is entitled to believe that his progress has been significant enough for him to be taken seriously.

"It’s different now, I’ve had a few seasons riding as a professional and I think I can view it in a different light." - Tom Marquand

“Last time I went out as a 5lb claimer, I’d just turned 17. It’s different now, I’ve had a few seasons riding as a professional and I think I can view it in a different light and hopefully people view me in a different light too. I’m going there with the intent to be flat out if possible.

"It’s a step into the unknown, but you’ve got to take the odd risk, haven’t you?”