UK apprentice Tom Marquand to make Australian debut at Caulfield on Saturday
Champion UK apprentice Tom Marquand will ride at Caulfield on Saturday. Picture: Ian Currie
Matt Stewart, Herald Sun, January 8, 2016.
THERE was once a time when the racing world was a very big place. Different jurisdictions had different cultures, different styles.
English tracks were wide and sweeping, ours tight and turning. Our jockeys bashed and bashed, theirs urged with hips and struck horses less often but with more force.
Their jockeys were po-faced mutes, ours affable lairs.
But the racing world has shrunk and most things have merged. It’s shrinking more and more.
A very wealthy United Arab Emirates sheik with a very long name — so we will call him Sheik Mansoor — has bankrolled an international jockey school, the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies, to the tune of $80 million.
In a nutshell it’s a kids’ exchange. Young riders from fairly backward jurisdictions gain opportunities afforded the more privileged. They ride contraptions such as mechanical horses — standard here but novelties in places such as Belgium — and ride around the globe.
Apprentices from Turkey and Sweden will soon follow on the heels of 17-year-old champion English apprentice Tom Marquand.
Marquand is the first IFHRA “student’’ to ride here but he has followed Oisin Murphy, the previous champion UK apprentice, who created a huge impression in a short stint here a couple of seasons back.
Marquand is not a mute alien from another planet.
Marquand is much like our kids; “drilled’’ to be well spoken because racing is now showcased every day on TV over there, just like here. The cameras are always on.
He is whip-careful, adaptable. There is no longer a typical English rider, nor Australian.
“Some of our great jockeys are stylists, others are just as good but have none (style),’’ he said. “Everyone says how different the racing is, and it is to a degree, but that’s the whole part of being a jockey.
“You have to adapt. Look at Ryan Moore. He rides all over the world riding winners and that’s what I aspire to do.’’
In England there is pressure to reduce whip strikes, just like here; seven per race there, five before the 100m here. “I think we’ve got it right, a sensible amount,’’ he said, then echoing the sentiment here: “Keeping on top of it is good for racing.’’
Our tracks used to be flatter and less run-on than theirs, but now many of ours are cambered, such as Caulfield where Marquand rides Tashbeeh for his hosts David Hayes and Tom Dabernig. “I’d say it’s a track much like ours; fairly spacious, a hill,’’ he said.
Famously successful female jockeys were once a rarity there, just like here. Now they are common in both jurisdictions. “We’re equals now,’’ Marquand said.
Marquand said he was not surprised Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup because women such as recently retired Hayley Turner had achieved similar things back home. “It just shows how much racing has modernised,’’ he said.
In the past a top English jockey, as here, would invariably have a racing pedigree. But both places are now heavily urbanised and kids who ride can come from anywhere.
Marquand’s dad is in real estate and his mum’s a jeweller. He caught the bug because the family happened to live next door to Cheltenham racecourse.
There is another similarity between here and there and it’s never changed. Punters are unforgiving.
Tashbeeh was unplaced last start and many reckon his rider missed the boat. When told he was riding a last-start black booker and would be under scrutiny from the stands, Marquand offered a straight bat. “I’ll just give it my best,’’ he said.
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