Berry finally gets chance to conquer mountain summit
TOMMY Berry finally gets the opportunity to ride in the $13 million The TAB Everest on Godolphin's Home Of The Brave at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The star jockey was denied the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Everest last year, then in recent weeks was frustrated as three sprinters he was due to ride in the big race were ruled out by injury or retirement.
But Berry is going back to the future by joining forces with world racing's most powerful owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, to try and win the richest race on turf.
Berry won the first Group 1 race of his career for the owner when he rode Epaulette to success in the 2012 Golden Rose.
"I've always had some luck when riding for the Godolphin stable and it will be an honour to put their colours on for The Everest,'' Berry said.
After spending a year in Hong Kong, Berry returned to Sydney racing at the start of this season and has had four rides for Godolphin's trainer James Cummings for two winners and two seconds.
His Everest mount, former English sprinter Home Of The Brave has had three Australian starts for the Cummings stable including his impressive win in the Theo Mark Stakes, defeating D'Argento and Everest rival Trapeze Artist before his good last start fourth behind Jungle Cat in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.
"Home Of The Brave has good overseas form to bring into the race and his runs here show he is going to be very competitive,'' Berry said.
"The Everest is wide open with the favourites (Trapeze Artist and Redzel) getting beaten in the Premiere Stakes.''
Home Of The Brave is rated a $15 chance by TAB Fixed Odds for The Everest but the Godolphin sprinter is looming as a real threat particularly with the likelihood of a rain-affected track for The Everest.
"The rain has come at the right time,'' Berry said. "On a heavy track you need a horse that is rock-hard fit.
"I've seen it many times before where a horse goes up to 1400m then drops back on a freshen up to a 1200m like he does for The Everest, and they usually run very well.
"Home Of The Brave is a free-striding horse and if he draws out that is not going to worry him at all. I think he fits the profile of the race.''
Berry is thankful for getting the opportunity to ride in The Everest after it looked likely he was going to miss out again.
Hong Kong Jockey Club protocols prevented Berry from returning to ride champion sprinter Chautauqua in The Everest last year and he watched from afar as the "grey flash" finished fourth behind Redzel.
Berry had hoped to get back on Chautauqua in Saturday's Everest but the horse's recalcitrant barrier manners eventually forced his retirement from racing two weeks ago.
The jockey had earlier been sounded out for the ride on crack young sprinter Menari before that horse was also retired due to a leg issue.
Berry then locked himself into the Everest ride on English only for the mare to be withdrawn last week after she pulled up sore following a track gallop.
This left Berry without an Everest ride again but this is when he took matters into his own hands.
"I knew the Australian Turf Club was still trying to decide on their runner so I rang the club and said whoever is your horse, can you keep me in mind,'' Berry said.
"Then I sent James (Cummings) a text as well but I didn't know then that both parties were meeting and agreeing to run Home Of The Brave. Everything lined up for me.''
Berry said he is excited to be riding in The Everest on Saturday.
"It was tough having to watch Chautauqua running in The Everest when we were in Hong Kong last year,'' the jockey said.
"I can remember my wife, Sharnee, saying to me she was jealous of those people that went to the Everest meeting because it looked incredible.
"To me, that spoke volumes of The Everest because Sharnee is happier to go to the midweeks and is not overly fussed by the big racedays but she can't wait for Saturday.''