Jockey Tommy Berry is as surprised as anyone that he will continue his association with dual Group One winner Helene Paragon over 2,400m in the final Group One of the season on Sunday week, in what looks a potential precursor to him joining trainer John Moore’s stable next season as a retained rider.
Entries for the HK$10 million Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup were released on Monday afternoon, with just eight nominations for the major race and Moore will saddle up six of them.
“It’s a great situation for me to have six of the eight but I suppose the club would be a bit disappointed,” Moore said. “From my point of view, a number of these horses will be considered for the [Hong Kong] Vase in December over this distance, so this will be one of the defining races for where their campaigns go next season.”
In addition to Helene Paragon, Moore will have Werther (Hugh Bowman), Eagle Way (Joao Moreira), Helene Charisma (Douglas Whyte), Basic Trilogy (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Designs On Rome (Sam Clipperton) in the race, opposed by Tony Cruz’s pair, Gold Mount and dual past winner of the race Blazing Speed.
Berry has been a regular fly in, fly out jockey for Moore’s runners in major races for several seasons, including wins in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) and Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) this season on Helene Paragon, but the new choice of assignment caught him off guard.
In seven starts in France and Spain, Helene Paragon was never tried beyond 1,600m before he was exported to Hong Kong, however he has won two of three starts beyond a mile here but finished fifth in the 2016 Derby at his longest assignment.
“I’ll admit I was a little surprised when John rang for a 2,400m race, but the more I thought about, the more I was comfortable about it,” Berry said. “Helene Paragon is more relaxed now, especially last start when John took off all the headgear. I think that before that the horse was fighting in his races with the crossed nose band he was wearing, but the other day I could have ridden him on a piece of cotton.”
In addition to relaxing the horse, those gear changes also saw him catch Berry unaware how fast he sprinted in the Champions Mile.
“As I said on the day, he sprinted faster than before and I didn’t give him a great ride as a result – got there too soon. The way he quickened means we have to rethink how he’s ridden,” he said. “I’ll be wanting to have him switched off and see if he can outsprint them. At 2,400m, he’s probably like Werther, who can get a bit keen but gets that trip if he can switch off.”
The jungle drums have been beating for some time that Berry would be Moore’s jockey next season, and Berry confirmed that he was deep in discussions with the leading money trainer about a full-time position.
“I believe it has to be ratified by the Jockey Club Licensing Committee for John to have a retained jockey but it’s in the works,” Berry said.