By British Champions Series media team
GB: Tom Marquand’s title hopes for 2021 might be slipping away, but he can look forward to the plum ride on hot favourite Starman in Saturday’s Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock, the latest leg of the Qipco British Champions Series.
While Marquand looks set to replicate last year’s honourable third behind Oisin Murphy and William Buick in the battle for the Flat Jockeys’ Championship, he has an outstanding chance on Ed Walker’s impressive Darley July Cup winner, who heads a field of 11 at Haydock.
At this stage last year, Marquand had enjoyed two G1 wins, both in Australia courtesy of Addeybb, and by the end of the year he had added two more, thanks to chance ride Galileo Chrome in the St Leger and another career highlight on Addeybb in the Qipco Champion Stakes.
Having won yet another G1 on Addeybb in Australia prior to the Darley July Cup, he will be on three for 2021 if Starman can bounce back on Saturday from his below-par third at Deauville last month.
With Addeybb to look forward to again at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day and a more immediate outside chance on Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit in next Saturday’s Cazoo St Leger he hopes to equal, or perhaps even surpass, last year’s G1 tally.
Marquand said: “The championship is something I’ve always aspired to, and at 23 I’ve got time on my side hopefully, but those Group 1s are the season-definers and I’m on two for the year, just as I was 12 months ago, with plenty to look forward to in the big races still to come, starting at Haydock.
“You can have as good a year as you like numerically, but once you’ve had success at the top level the numbers pale into insignificance if you are no longer having those big days.”
Marquand can’t wait to get back on board Starman in Saturday’s G1 contest. “Starman showed the best sprinting form in Europe this year when he won the July Cup, and if he can reproduce that he’s going to be hard to beat,” he said.
“I thought he did particularly well there too as he was up against more experienced rivals and it was only really his second proper race, because he barely had to do anything to win his races last year.
“Gaps closed on him that day and he’s not the most nimble, so you have to give him credit for that too,” the jockey added.
“Once he hit the front he was very good, and on that rising ground at Newmarket a horse who is going as well as he was can really put in a late shift. Starman flew, and to hit the line as well as he did was impressive.”
Starman’s subsequent Deauville defeat is easily explained, for while he is unbeaten on ground that is good or faster – which Haydock looks almost certain to provide – he has been beaten both times he has encountered soft.
“It will be nice getting back on better ground because in France it just felt as if he got stuck a bit on that tacky ground,” said Marquand.
“It was an extra half-furlong as well, which may have been a factor too, because three-quarters of a furlong out I thought he was going to win, but when I got into him he struggled to extend in the way he had done at Newmarket.”
He added: “That July Cup form is about as rock-solid as it gets, and if the conditions are suitable and the race is run to suit again we ought to be in exactly the same spot. We just want a genuinely run sprint, and having a horse like Glen Shiel in there again is quite handy as that’s his gig as well.
“You have to respect Glen Shiel because he’s been so tough and reliable at this level and he’s a former Qipco British Champions Sprint winner. He’s danced pretty much every chance and once a sprinter has shown he’s got the ability to do it you have to be prepared for him to do it again.”
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