Tom Marquand believes Billesdon Brook gives him a “live chance” of riding a first Group 1 winner in the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday.
The 20-year-old gets the opportunity to partner the Richard Hannon-trained QIPCO 1000 Guineas winner in the £600,000 feature, which forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, because her usual rider Sean Levey is on the side-lines with a shoulder injury.
Legatissimo, Minding and Winter have each pulled off the QIPCO 1000 Guineas/Nassau Stakes in the past three years and Marquand is hopeful Billesdon Brook, owned by Jeanette McCreery and Pall Mall Partners, has what it takes to emulate them.
“It’s a horrible situation for Sean but one man’s loss is another’s gain. No doubt it will work the other way at some point in my career,” Marquand said. “I’ve not really gone into a Group 1 with a proper, live chance like this before. I suppose Salouen in the Racing Post Trophy [who finished third at 16/1 in 2016] was the last time where I thought I could possibly hit the frame.
“Mrs McCreery heads up the Pall Mall partnership and has given me some of my biggest days in the saddle and hopefully there are even bigger days to come.
“She’s been absolutely fantastic the whole way through and has always kept faith in myself, Sean and Hollie [Doyle]. I think it’s hard for owners to stick by us and not go for a Group 1 rider, as such, because agents are ringing up and offering up jockeys who have ridden thousands of winners, rather than hundreds. That’s a big testament to how kind Mrs McCreery is - and how she rewards us for being there [at the Hannon stable] every day.
“We all end up riding everything in the yard at some point - that’s why the boss likes us to come in consistently every day. There’s no such thing as a work morning - we gallop them when needs be.”
The Stobart Champion Apprentice of 2015 has been attached to the Hannon yard almost four years and does have experience of competing at the highest level.
“I’ve ridden in seven or eight Group 1s and they certainly ride different,” he said. “They are extremely competitive and nobody gets an inch, and there’s good reason because it’s the best horses going into the best races and, ultimately, it’s not just the fact that you are winning a Group 1 but everything that comes from winning one. It’s what everybody is focused on.”
Billesdon Brook had three Group 1 winners immediately behind her when winning the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at 66-1 at Newmarket in May and has since finished a staying-on fourth to Alpha Centauri in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. There is stamina in the pedigree of the daughter of Champs Elysees and Thursday will be the first time she has raced beyond a mile.
“Billesdon Brook has always been a lovely, straightforward filly and is the sort of horse that you turn up for every day to try and get the ride on,” Marquand said. “The way she needs riding means the trip should not be an issue. She’s dropped in with cover and it will just be a case of just biding our time for a little bit longer. It should be left in our hands as to when we can flick the switch and put her alight.
“I rode Anna Nerium [in the Coronation] and we didn’t go overly quick. Billesdon Brook was dropped in, as usual, and just got caught up a little bit mid-race behind a couple of horse who weren’t really going anywhere.
“She ran on really nicely late on and Alpha Centauri [the winner] has since demolished another field at Newmarket, so the form has been backed up very solidly. I think at Goodwood, and over a mile and a quarter, she’s going to have even more speed up her sleeve.”
Aidan O’Brien, responsible for the past two winners of the Nassau Stakes, relies on Rhododendron, winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May. The daughter of Galileo is out of Halfway To Heaven, who won the Nassau Stakes for O’Brien in 2008.
Veracious, third on her return in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, seeks to give Sir Michael Stoute a record-equalling eighth victory in the Qatar Nassau Stakes - the late Sir Henry Cecil holds the record - just five days after his record sixth success in the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Her sire, Frankel, was a two-time winner of the Sussex Stakes during his flawless 14-race career.
Wild Illusion, a Group 1 winner at two, was fourth in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and has since finished runner-up in the Investec Oaks and Ribblesdale Stakes, whileUrban Fox has shown improved form since joining William Haggas this season and was an impressive winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh this month.Wilamina completes the six-runner line-up.