Reigning champion Tom Marquand is ready to fend off a host of stars and defend his Longines International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) crown under the Happy Valley lights on Wednesday evening.
After sharing the spoils with Silvestre de Sousa in last year’s renewal of the prestigious contest, Marquand is confident he has the ammunition to become only the third jockey to snare back-to-back titles.
“I think I’ve definitely got three decent rides,” Marquand said. “I’ve got a favourable draw on two of them and it’s a track you do need a little bit of luck at.
“There’s probably not a stand-out horse, but it looks like I’ve got a good enough book of rides where, if things fall right, it could all happen again.”
The IJC has been a happy hunting ground for Marquand, with a joint second in 2021 to add to last year’s victory, and the British rider hopes he can continue his impressive streak.
“It was great to win last year with Silvestre. You want to win it by yourself, but you’d rather take it home with someone else than not at all,” Marquand said. “It’s a tough evening and it’s highly competitive. You need things to go your way.”
Marquand will bid to get off the mark at the first time of asking in this year’s IJC when he teams up with Caspar Fownes aboard Galvanic in the opening leg, a Class Four over 1,000m. After weakening into sixth on his latest outing last month, the galloper will jump from gate three in his attempt to shed his maiden tag.
“Galvanic was the one where I saw the draw and thought ‘happy days’, that’s a blessing hopefully,” Marquand said. “He didn’t have the best trip around last time and he’s been running well at Happy Valley before that.”
The partnership between Marquand and “King of the Valley” Fownes will continue in the second leg, a Class Four over 1,650m, where Killer Instinct will aim to go one better than his latest outing over this course and distance last month.
“He has a wider draw, but his last run at Happy Valley was a good one,” Marquand said. “It’s another decent ride but we have a tougher draw.”
Marquand’s final two IJC rides are Splendid Living and Golden Empire, and the rider is keen to nullify any potential advantage the Hong Kong-based jockeys have.
“Riding at Happy Valley is a pretty unique experience. If you went and adopted an English style of race riding over here, you’d be sat last with nowhere to go a furlong out,” Marquand said.
“You have some of the best jockeys in the world riding so it’s ridiculously tight racing and competitive. You’ve got Zac [Purton] and the local boys, and they technically have track advantage. You have to do everything you can to make sure that doesn’t come into play, and not miss a beat all evening.”
Marquand is an $11 chance to come out on top for a second straight IJC, while Ryan Moore ($6), Vincent Ho Chak-yiu ($6), James McDonald ($7), Karis Teetan ($7.5), Zac Purton ($8) and Hollie Doyle ($8.5) are those available at single-figure odds.
Across the card, Marquand has a full book of nine rides for seven different trainers.
“Getting rides can be hard. It’s competitive and there’s a big pool of jockeys, so to pick up those rides is great,” he said.