Tom Marquand hopes Sacred can give him a “dream start” to the season and become the first Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes winner in 15 years to follow up in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday.
Having steered the Joseph O’Brien-trained Galileo Chrome to glory in the St Leger at Doncaster last year, the 23 year old rider will bid to secure the second Classic of his career when partnering Cheveley Park Stud’s homebred daughter of Exceed And Excel in the prestigious fillies’ Group One contest.
Recent history suggests Sacred has it all to do, with no horse achieving the Nell Gwyn/1000 Guineas double since Speciosa in 2006. However, Marquand believes the William Haggas-trained filly can change that statistic, provided her stamina holds out over a mile.
Although Sacred is yet to race beyond seven furlongs, which she tackled for the first time in the Nell Gwyn earlier this month, Marquand believes her relaxed style of racing gives her every chance of seeing out her new trip. She is the 7-1 joint third favourite with official betting partner Betfair.
He said: “I was very impressed with her in the Nell Gwyn. It looked like she had done well for the winter under her belt and that she had grown and strengthened up plenty.
“She has got to prove she stays a mile but it looked like she gave herself every chance of doing that in the Nell Gwyn. She relaxed beautifully the other day and that will give her more of a chance of staying the mile, but we won’t truly know until the day.
“I’m looking forward to such a big opportunity early in the season and it would be a dream start if we could win it.
“The statistics are interesting but you can’t always read too much into them. It is hard to know the full tale on the previous Nell Gwyn winners unless you have been involved as there may have been some specifically trained for it with no improvement for the Guineas.
“William knows how ready she was last time and he will know how much more there is to come. As long as she has come out of that run well and is feeling happy and healthy and is training nicely for it, that is what really matters.”
While Marquand has already tasted Classic success he admits that victory aboard Sacred in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, which would be a first for both jockey and trainer, would be just as sweet given their status within British Racing.
He added: “There are five Classics a year and they are stuck in the base of British Racing. Everyone remembers the greats that win them - the jockeys, owners, trainers and the horses.
“Most people have it in their vision that you want to win a Guineas to start the season off well as it can be a platform to jumping into a big season. They are what British Racing is about.
“She (Sacred) was competitive in every assignment last year and finished second three times at Group Two level, where she was unlucky one or two times but she has improved even more than we imagined.
“Most horses that go from two to three disappoint you as you hope they will find another 12lbs but often find a lot less than that, but Sacred appears to have done the opposite.
“William and the team are really happy with her and Ryan Moore sounded like he was pretty impressed, so everything points the right way.
“It would also be great for William as I’m sure he wouldn’t mind training a 1000 Guineas winner!”
Victory on Sunday would not only be a breakthrough one for both Marquand and Haggas, it would also be a first success in the race for owners Cheveley Park Stud since the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Russian Rhythm stormed to glory under Kieren Fallon in the 2003 renewal.
Marquand added: “It’s a massive day for Cheveley Park as they are trying to get a filly to win the 1000 Guineas for the first time since Russian Rhythm, though they have been close a few times since.
“They have put so much into the game and they are major breeders. I’d love to ride a winner like this for them in what is such a pivotal race in British Racing.
“Hopefully Sacred can follow in the hoofprints of Russian Rhythm - they are people you want to have big winners for as they deserve them.”
Unlike many of his weighing room colleagues, Marquand has a Group One victory under his belt already this year having steered another Haggas stablemate, Addeybb, to glory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick for the second season running, following a successful stint in Australia.
He added: “It has been a great few weeks for me and a great start to the year and long may it last. Winning on Addeybb last time out was great as they are the days you want to be involved in as a jockey. It was an exceptional achievement by William and the team at Somerville Lodge.
“All the build-up before the race was about it being between Verry Elleegant and Addeybb. Thankfully the race didn’t disappoint and we were on the winning side.”
While Classic success is currently at the forefront of Marquand’s mind, looking further down the line he hopes to be in a position to challenge for this season’s Flat Jockeys’ Championship, which starts on Saturday, having finished third in the competition last year.
He added: “I’m blessed with the ammunition I am being given and it was great to get a winner on the first ride back at Sandown Park last Friday aboard Alenquer for William in the Classic Trial.
“It’s widely known that winning the jockeys’ championship is something I would like to achieve, but whether that is possible is another question.
“It is a long season and though I’ve had five good days I need to have five months of good form if I’m to win it.
“I will be going racing to try and ride as many winners as I can and if I’m in a position to challenge for it I will scrap for it in that last month.”