17 Jun 2020
Tom Marquand: “It’s still a big occasion.”
Leading jockey Tom Marquand explains what it will be like to compete in his first Investec Derby in unusual circumstances
“It’s going to be so different being at the Investec Derby this year. The crowd there lifts the place up and makes the event feel so special. In a typical year, in the inside of the track the spectators bring a party atmosphere; in the stands there’s a more formal celebration.
Obviously horse-racing will be different now, having been cancelled for a couple of months during the coronavirus pandemic. With no members of the public attending, there will be less of an atmosphere but I don’t think it will affect the mind-sets of anyone taking part – it’s still a big occasion and the Investec Derby is as good as it gets. It’s one of the biggest days on the racing calendar in the world.
Video: A Derby in extraordinary times
It might sound strange, but for many, competing in the Investec Derby will be business as usual. Winning would be a childhood dream come true, but if you overthink the race, you can overcomplicate everything. I’ll use the same principles from riding around the track on any day. I’m excited – and I’m riding what looks to be a talented horse.
Having said that, the track at Epsom is different to any other. It includes a climb from the start all the way to the top bend followed by six or seven furloughs where you’re downhill on a camber. The horses need to be completely balanced and relaxed so they can find their rhythm.
It’s because the Investec Derby is the ultimate test of the horse and rider that a victory would be so meaningful for us all. When you see a jockey who wins, the euphoria stays with them.
I am lucky that I was in Australia during the UK lockdown and have only been out of the saddle for about five weeks, whereas some jockeys had not ridden for two or three months when racing resumed.
It might sounds strange, but for many, competing in the Investec Derby will be business as usual.
Now we’re back, all racecourses have put a lot of work in to keep us spaced out. The weighing room usually has a sociable atmosphere but we’ll be in separate pods this time and we’re not allowed to use saunas or showers. It’s not ideal, but obviously it’s important given the pandemic that we’ve faced.
On the day, the horse will be cantering to the start without the crowd and that could mean that benefits the performance of some horses. The one shame is that the owner who wins probably won’t be able to be at the event, but I’m sure they’d rather be watching on TV then have no Derby at all.
The Derby has been one of the main traditions of English racing for a hell of a long time and I can’t wait to take part. Hopefully, once we’ve shown what we can do it will help other industries too. I’m so pleased to be back.”