Tommy Berry has never been one to back down and is ready to take it to the big two in the jockeys’ championship, but is still managing expectations and maintains his primary role is that of “team man” for trainer John Moore.
Joao Moreira and Zac Purton won more than one third of the races between them last season and many hope that Berry’s arrival will act as a circuit breaker to the leading pair’s dominance.
Being tied to Moore means Berry probably won’t make a meaningful title run, but the trainer’s big-race armoury should ensure the 26-year-old Australian certainly shakes things up.
“I’d like to think I have ridden well enough with this calibre of rider to say I’ll be able to challenge them, whether or not I can get past them in my first full season, that will be tough,” he said.
“I’ve got so much respect for those two guys. They are champion jockeys, but I feel like I have taken it to those guys in the big races, but this is different.”
Berry’s association with Moore started by winning the 2013 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on Military Attack just hours after the then 22-year-old stepped off an overseas flight for the first time.
Since then Berry has endeared himself to fans during numerous fly-in, fly-out one-meeting visits and two short stints, riding with eight Group Ones among his 56 winners at an impressive strike rate of nearly 12 per cent.
“I’ve built up a great association with John over the years and let’s hope that continues,” Berry said. “I know that people expect big things from me, because of what I’ve done, but before I was coming in on fly-in, fly-out assignments, riding some of John’s best horses in big races, or coming at the end of the season when John’s horses were all up and ready.
“This is a completely different situation. I’ll be riding the horses down in the bottom grades as well as the top ones.
“John’s horses take a little while to come to hand, so things might be slower to start with, and I need to chase outside rides to be competitive.
“John’s rides are a great start, but you still need the outside rides. If I want to maintain the same numbers I had before, I’m going to need to lift my game again. There’s a lot more pressure in what I’m doing now.”
Those outside rides shouldn’t be too much of a problem, with Berry having a strong association with leading local trainers Dennis Yip Chor-hong and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, and also freshman Michael Freedman.
What Berry is perhaps looking forward to most is the chance to play a day-in, day-out role with the preparation of Moore’s many budding superstars.
“I’ve always worked in this type of situation. I was apprentice to my father, then I was with Gai Waterhouse for three years and then with the Hawkes’ for three years.
“I’ve always been part of a stable, working on where horses are heading so being part of John’s team is no different to that and I think having that grounding in Australia as stable rider will help me,” he said.