A Group One victory aboard Pakistan Star would be the perfect tonic for Tommy Berry after enduring a tough first season in Hong Kong.
The Australian had tasted plenty of success at Sha Tin previously in a fly-in, fly-out or short-term capacity and he made the full-time move at the start of the term, becoming the stable rider for John Moore.
But things didn’t work out as either had hoped and while there were no hard feelings, they split in early April with Berry switching to a Jockey Club contract.
The 27-year-old only has 13 winners (and 57 placings) from 353 rides – the most recent one on March 25 – but he has secured a golden opportunity with Pakistan Star and is hoping a win in Sunday’s Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup can help spark a late resurgence.
“I’ve never really gone through what I’ve gone through this season with having a quiet patch, whether that’s been at home or here in Hong Kong,” Berry said.
“I’ve always seemed to get my winner here and there and chug along quite well, so it’s been a strange season. It’s been something I’ve struggled to come to terms with, having been as disappointing as it is, so this win would definitely mean a lot.
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“I think confidence as a rider is a very big thing and it’s probably something I’ve lacked the last couple of months due to poor form. But getting a ride like Pakistan Star really boosts your confidence right up and makes you believe in yourself again.”
The enigmatic Pakistan Star put it all together last start, delivering on his enormous potential with a stunning victory in the Group One QE II Cup and Tony Cruz’s five-year-old is set to start a short-priced favourite on Sunday.
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He is the class animal of the field but with only four rivals, tactics are going to play a huge role.
“It’s obviously going to be a tricky race. I really haven’t thought about what is going to happen because there’s no point really with only five in it,” Berry said.
“I know what’s best for him and that’s probably not being in front. The best thing I can do is come out as quiet as I can and just try and get him to switch off.
“I’d love to be just behind a couple, even in worst-case scenario outside the leader, but if he did ping out and get running a bit early and end up in front that would be no surprise because he can go a little bit keen. For him to run out the 2,400m out strong, you’d like him to switch off a bit.”
Berry believes the two biggest dangers are stablemates Gold Mount and Exultant.
“Gold Mount has good form at the top level, Exultant has been running really well against his own age and even last start over the distance against weak opposition. I think they’re the two to beat,” he said.
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“My horse has quality on his side, if it was 2,000m you’d probably think he was unbeatable but 2,400m is a little bit of a question mark because he hasn’t done it before.”
The affable Berry also has quality on his side and few would begrudge him success in the HK$10 million feature.