Berry in box seat to enhance big-race record
TOMMY Berry has already been responsible for some of the most memorable moments at The Championships since their inception five years ago.
His emotion-charged win on The Offer in the 2014 Sydney Cup was unforgettable as it came just two weeks after the death of his twin brother, Nathan.
And Berry's nerveless last-to-first rides on the "Grey Flash" Chautauqua for his TJ Smith Stakes three-peat in 2015-16-17 remain arguably the most spectacular wins at The Championships.
Berry also won the 2014 Coolmore Legacy Stakes on Diamond Drille and the 2015 ATC Australian Derby with Tavago.
In fact, Berry's six Group 1 wins at The Championships places him second on the jockey rankings behind Hugh Bowman with nine majors.
Chris Waller has been the most successful trainer with nine Group 1 wins ahead of Murray Baker with four.
And Berry believes he can improve his big-race record further with a very strong book of rides on day one of The Championships at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The star jockey has mounts in each of the four Group 1 races - Pierata ($2.5m TJ Smith Stakes), Madison County ($2m ATC Australian Derby), Kluger ($3m Doncaster Mile) and Spring Loaded ($1m Inglis Sires').
Berry didn't hesitate when asked to nominate the best chance among his four Group 1 rides.
"Pierata", he said.
Pierata goes into the star-studded TJ Smith Stakes after a narrow loss to Nature Strip in The Galaxy. He is rated at $6 by Ladbrokes behind $4.60 favourite Trapeze Artist.
"There is a sense of timing about Pierata,'' Berry said. "Third-up into the TJ Smith is going to be great.
"He is unbeaten at 1200m at Randwick and it doesn't matter what we are going to get (track rating) on the day, he's going to be very hard to beat.
"He's drawn the right gate, the race maps well for him as there is going to be good speed.
"I'd just like to hopefully settle a bit closer than I was the other day, but you haven't got a horse like Nature Strip that is going to burn along at 100 miles an hour.''
Pierata hasn't won at Group 1 level yet but Berry believes he can deliver that big-race win for trainer Greg Hickman.
"Greg is easy to ride for - I'm a good family friend of his, even if he has a go at me I don't really take it to heart too much,'' Berry said.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve like most trainers do, especially at Warwick Farm, and I think it would mean a great deal to him if Pierata wins the race.
"He has placed this horse really well this preparation, up to the 1300m back to the 1100m and then he will step him up to the 1200m for the TJ.
"He deserves a Group 1 and so does the horse. It will make a nice stallion when he retires.''
Berry and canny New Zealand trainer Murray Baker are joining forces with Madison County, a $10 chance in the ATC Australian Derby.
Madison County tired near the line when second to Angel Of Truth in the Tulloch Stakes (2000m) last week.
This raised some questions about Madison County's ability to run a strong 2400m in the Derby but Berry believes a tactical error he made last week contributed to the defeat.
"t of rode to the percentages but my patience was what got me 'beat' - I should have been a bit more patient,'' Berry said.
"Whether it was stick to the fence or even come up underneath one or two but at the top of the straight I was adamant I needed to get to the outside.
"I'm not sure why I was - I don't usually ride like that - but I was impatient.
"But to be fair probably the times suggest it was always going to be hard to beat the winner with how slow they went.
"The other day I felt at the 150m mark when I pulled the stick through you will see he really scrambled for about two to three strides and that just took the wind out of his sails.
"He was already probably tiring a little bit anyway with the month in between runs.''
Baker has trained four ATC Australian Derby winners and Berry is putting his faith in the champion trainer.
"I just love the thought of Murray Baker's horses backing up a week later into a Derby trip,'' he said. "They have been pretty adamant to get him to the Derby - not the Doncaster - and that gives me confidence.
"Madison County's tough, I think he's the right horse for it and he's got the best turn of foot in the race. Chapanda will stay, that's the one to beat because he will stay all day, but Madison County, I just like him though.
"I liked him from the first time I sat on him at trackwork - he's got a bit of X-factor about him.''
Berry also has a big opinion of the Team Hawkes-trained juvenile Spring Loaded and believes the colt is a much better chance than the $71 he's been rated by Ladbrokes' price assessors.
"We were pretty deflated after his last start (eighth in the Todman Stakes) because he was very impressive on debut against McLaren,'' Berry said. "I did notice in the mounting yard and going to the gates he was very quiet, very laid- back, he wasn't switched on at all.
"He raced like that and he is a colt - he seemed to throw in the towel quite quickly.
"We have whacked the blinkers on and he has had a fair few weeks in between runs trying to dodge wet tracks.
"It is the grand final (Saturday) so he will probably run either way. I think he will get through a wet track but I just don't think he's 100 per cent happy on it.''
Berry said Japanese raider Kluger has impressed him at Canterbury trackwork this week, proving he was on target for the Doncaster.