Horse Racing

Oisin Murphy, Tom Marquand, Hollie Doyle and more ready for flat jockeys title fight as season kicks into gear

THE Flat jockeys championship has the potential to be a second look this season.

Often overlooked for much of the year, this time things could well be different.


Dependent on how generous you are, five or six genuine contenders are in the mix.

Of course, some will fall away but after years of a to-and-fro between two main rivals, the likes of Oisin Murphy – who has won the last two – Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle all have the firepower to take the trophy.

Add in Ben Curtis, Will Buick and Silvestre De Sousa and you could have a battle royale.

So, what do they say and what are their chances?

Tom Marquand, 23

Main backer: William Haggas

Last year finish: 3rd

TOM MARQUAND was such a success down under the locals nicknamed him Aussie Tom.

But it’s Champion Tom the 23-year-old wants to be known as from now on.

Marquand has taken the sport by storm in recent season

The former Champion Apprentice has made waves in recent seasons, landing his first Royal Ascot success, followed by his first Classic in the St Leger and a memorable double at British Champions Day.

After flying the nest and leaving Richard Hannon, Marquand is now a key cog in the powerful William Haggas yard.

Horses like Addeyyb, Sacred and Starman will offer plenty of chances in the big races.

But with a number of those already on the CV, it’s the jockey’s title Marquand wants added to his roll of honour.

The championship officially got underway last Saturday, 2000 Guineas day, and runs until British Champions Day in October at Ascot.

As usual it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but Marquand is keen to hit the ground running after another winter to remember down under and has three winners to his tally already. Ben Curtis leads the way on six.

He said: “Towards the end of my time in Australia, while Newmarket and Newbury were on and the Classic trials were throwing up horses, I felt for the first time that I was missing out.

“Even more with the way William Haggas started. But now I’m back it’s reignited a bit of a spark in me and it’s good to be amongst it again.

“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and hoping I can get off to a flier, as that’s what I’ll need for the championship.

“William has been my biggest supporter for the last year-and-a half or so, and he’s got an extremely powerful team.

“And Tony Carroll has provided me with 15 to 20 winners every single year and has always been loyal to me.”

Marquand might have an advantage over some of his rivals with no job as a retained rider to any owner allowing him to pick and choose where he rides.

The likes of Oisin Murphy, Silvestre De Sousa and even Hollie Doyle have to ride where their bosses run their horses.

Remarkably, in the past two weeks Marquand has ridden for 25 different trainers.

Marquand added: “I’m also lucky to have a really wide base of support beyond just William and Tony.

“I ride a lot for Hughie Morrison, Tom Ward and Ed Walker when they need me too.

“In a championship season of under six months I think that really helps, because you need to be firing in winners every single week.

“If you are relying mainly on one trainer who goes quiet for a bit, that might be costing you eight or ten winners a week.

“It’s going to be tough, I know that, but I’ll be going for it.”

William Buick, 32

Main backer: Charlie Appleby

Last year finish: 2nd

Buick came from nowhere to challenge Oisin Murphy late in the season.

Not content with riding just for Godolphin, Buick reignited his contacts that saw him burst on to the scene as a youngster.

Buick will have heaps of Godolphin stars to fire him to the top

He just fell short, but if commitments to Appleby and other Godolphin trainers don’t get in the way, he’ll be going hell for leather again.

He said: “It’s no secret that it’s a big ambition of mine and I’ll be giving it my best shot this year. I’ve come close a couple of times, without quite threatening, but I’ve never before put my heart and soul into chasing it as much as you need to.

“Last year I learned a lot chasing Oisin and I’ve hopefully taken a lot of positives out of the experience.”

Hollie Doyle, 24

Main backer: Archie Watson

Last year finish: 4th

It was a breakthrough year in many reasons for Doyle. A first Royal Ascot success and Group 1 win shot her into the limelight and she even came third in the BBC SPOTY awards.

Watson provides plenty of ammo but doesn’t have the numbers that restricts Doyle to a limited number of rides.

Doyle has been breaking records for fun in recent seasons

She said: “It’s going to be tough for someone like me to win it but I give it 100% every year.

“I try my hardest and it’s just whether I’m in a position to go for it.

“I had a great year last year and I must make sure I don’t give the people who used me then any reason not to use me in future.

“I think I’m ahead of last year’s schedule, so I’ve just got to keep it up.”

Ben Curtis, 31

Main backer: Mark Johnston

Last year finish: 5th

Curtis has always been open with his ambition to win the jockeys title and now he’s joined up with king of the north Mark Johnston, might just have his best shout to date.

The new partnership has already proved fruitful and he’ll definitely not be short of opportunities.

Curtis has plenty of contacts up north

He said: “I had a fantastic year numbers wise in 2020, and there was a lot more quality too.

“The game plan again is to keep building up the quality and also to put my head down and ride as many winners as I can, then see where I am when we get to Goodwood. If I’m in contention at that stage I’ll be giving it 100%.”

Oisin Murphy, 25

Main backer: Andrew Balding

Last year finish: Champion

Murphy landed his second championship on the spin last season. But what was at one point was a procession was made tougher with his drugs ban.

Now in the clear and with Balding and Qatar Racing firmly in his corner, Murphy is undoubtedly the one to beat again.

Murphy has won the last two championships

He said: “It’s a very competitive weighing room in Britain, as we all know, and there are stars and big-name jockeys everywhere you look. William Buick and Tom Marquand in particular are very eager to be champion jockey and they deserve a lot of respect.

“On a personal level it would be very special to me if I could win the championship for a third time.”

Silvestre De Sousa, 40

Main backer: King Power Racing

The one meeting a day rule has harmed De Sousa since it was brought in last year. He would usually rack up more miles than any of his rivals taking rides wherever they came.

In tandem with his new gig for King Power over the past three seasons, it meant he’s struggled to win a fourth. But he’s still up for the challenge this season.

De Sousa has taken the trophy three times already

He said: “I’ve won the title three times and I’d love to make it a fourth.

“But I know how much the others want it too and Oisin is top of the list.

“If the rules are relaxed to let us ride at two meetings a day you can be sure I’ll be here, there and everywhere giving it a good go. But at the moment that doesn’t look like it will happen.”


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