Popular Australian jockey Tommy Berry will have plenty of New Zealand race fans cheering him on this Saturday when the first day of The Championships gets underway at Royal Randwick.
Berry will continue his association with the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Madison County who looks to have timed his assault on the feature three-year-old event, the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m), to a nicety.
Berry was taken by the Pins gelding’s first-up effort for fourth behind The Autumn Sun in the Gr.1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) and places the blame on pilot error for his defeat in last weekend’s Gr.2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m), where he finished runner-up.
“It was a terrific run first-up as he had missed some work due to an aborted sale to Hong Kong, and the track that day was quite testing,” Berry said.
“He ran some lovely closing sectionals, even slightly faster than The Autumn Sun, so I was delighted as it was my first ride on him and it was great to get a feel for what he is capable of.
“I thought he should have won last time and blame myself for getting him beaten as I just chose the wrong part of the track to make a challenge in.
“It was very cut up and if I had been a little more patient and gone to the inside, I think he would have won the race.”
While the rain that has hit Sydney of late shows little sign of abating, Berry is confident his charge will handle a rain-affected Randwick surface after a sparkling track gallop on a soft track at Warwick Farm earlier this week.
“He worked on a soft track at Warwick Farm on Tuesday and it was just the sort of gallop you want to see heading into a Group One race,” Berry said.
“I think it was certainly a lot better underfoot and that suited him, so I’m not that worried if we do get it worse than that on Saturday.
“He is well seasoned now and the track will be much better than what he has been on lately given there has been no racing there (Randwick) leading into Saturday.”
Berry is also relying on the well-known Baker-Forsman polish in the big races to put a touch more luck on his side.
“I’m really grateful to be riding for Murray and Andrew and for his owners, the China Horse Club,” he said.
“I’ve known Michael Wallace (Racing & Bloodstock Manager, China Horse Club) and Mr Teo (Chairman, China Horse Club) for a number of years and have ridden winners for them in some top races.
“It would be good to land another Group One for them all.
“I put my hand up for the ride on Madison County, if he came to Australia, after riding Queen Of Diamonds at Ellerslie in the Karaka Million (3YO Classic) back in January.
“We didn’t get a win that day so it would be great to go a few places better this time.”
While Berry has been at the top of his game in the last decade and is a much sought-after rider for the big occasion, he is also mindful of forging a future off the track once his racing career is over.
To that end, his association with Kiwi bloodstock agent Wallace and several other leading racing and sporting figures has lead to him being a shareholder in a thriving venture in the hospitality industry.
Berry, Wallace, Sydney-based trainer Michael Freedman and international cricketer David Warner, in conjunction with brewery operator Andrew Purchase and a couple of other business partners have established the award-winning St Andrews Beach Brewery – a family-friendly craft brewery and eatery.
Located on the property formerly known as Markdel, the 92-acre training base on the Mornington Peninsula, which was owned by the Freedman Brothers, St Andrews Beach Brewery has been a sensation since opening just over eighteen months ago.
“I have always thought about what I wanted to do once I left racing and when this opportunity came along, I jumped at it,” Berry said.
“Michael Freedman told me about the concept and plans one night after I’d ridden at a Golden Slipper meeting for him and I immediately said I wanted to be involved.
“His response was a flat no and that remained the answer over the next 12 months when I pestered him about it every chance I got.
“Eventually he gave in and I am thrilled to be involved as it is something outside my comfort zone and I just love it.
“The business has started incredibly well and we have picked up a couple of awards within the hospitality industry already, which is amazing.”
With the business humming along, the consortium behind the venture have expanded their horizons internationally with the concept.
“At the moment we are looking at opening a similar establishment in Paris and another in Manchester,” Berry said.
“Those plans are well advanced and I can’t wait for it all to fall into place.
“While I’m still enjoying my riding, and that is where my focus is, it is also nice to know there is something away from racing when the day comes that I’m ready to call it quits.” – NZ Racing Desk