Berry in right form to chase McDon­ald

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Racing - RAY THOMAS

SYD­NEY’S lead­ing jock­eys James McDon­ald and Tommy Berry will con­tinue their premier­ship duel at Rose­hill Gar­dens to­day.

McDon­ald has a full book of nine rides, eight of which are at sin­gle-fig­ure odds, as he tries to add to the 45 city wins so far this sea­son that have him a clear premier­ship leader.

Berry, who has seven rides at to­day’s meet­ing, is se­cond in the premier­ship rank­ings on 27 wins.

His strike rate of win­ners to rides is 17.3 per cent, which is se­cond only to McDon­ald’s out­stand­ing 24.3.

Although Berry has an am­bi­tion to win a Syd­ney premier­ship, he con­cedes the 2018-19 sea­son is now McDon­ald’s to lose.

“I have al­ways wanted to win the premier­ship,’’ Berry said.

“I would never say it is too hard but James is on a roll at the mo­ment and I don’t see that chang­ing any­time soon. “He is in a great vein of form.’’ Berry is in his first sea­son back in Syd­ney rac­ing af­ter spend­ing more than a year in Hong Kong and con­ceded he was sur­prised to find him­self in se­cond plac­ing on the premier­ship rank­ings.

“I didn’t ex­pect to get the sup­port I’ve re­ceived so far in Syd­ney since I was away for that long,’’ he said.

“But I’ve worked re­ally hard to get that sup­port, I ride plenty of work and if you ride a few win­ners, you get that mo­men­tum go­ing.

“I would love to stay top five this sea­son, that would be nice, but I know there is a great bunch of jock­eys in Syd­ney. There’s James, Hugh (Bow­man) and Ker­rin (McEvoy), and a lot of top jock­eys up with them.’’

Berry said he was en­joy­ing Syd­ney rac­ing’s hec­tic sched­ule where he of­ten rides at five meet­ings a week and at track­work most days.

“When I was in Hong Kong, I thought rid­ing twice a week would be good be­cause I could spend more time with my fam­ily, which I did,’’ Berry said.

“But I Iove to ride and I love horses. That is why I got into this in­dus­try in the first place, so I ac­tu­ally missed the grind of Syd­ney rac­ing.

“I also see how happy my wife and kids are to be back home and I think that shows in my rid­ing, too.’’

Berry is hop­ing he can edge closer to McDon­ald in the premier­ship race with some very good mounts — in­clud­ing promis­ing three-year-old Baller, the $2.90 TAB Fixed Odds favourite for the 2019 Mem­ber­ship Hand­i­cap (1400m).

The An­thony and Ed­ward Cum­mings-trained Baller has won two of his three starts, in­clud­ing a bril­liant ef­fort at Rand­wick’s Kens­ing­ton meet­ing last start when Berry rode the colt for the first time.

“Baller is a lovely three-year-old with great pres­ence and a great at­ti­tude,’’ Berry said.

“I rode him Tues­day morn­ing in track­work with Sky Boy, they worked to­gether, and he has def­i­nitely trained on since his last-start win.

“I would look to press for­ward early to find a spot then get him to switch off so he runs out a strong 1400m, which I’m con­fi­dent he will do.

“He’s an ex­cit­ing colt. I feel he is my best ride of the day.’’

Berry also re­unites with an­other last­start win­ner Sin­gle Bul­let in the Merry Christ­mas ATC Mem­bers Hand­i­cap (1100m).

Sin­gle Bul­let, rated at $7.50 be­hind $5 co-favourites Cor­us­cate and Bon Amis, re­turned to win­ning form with a fast-fin­ish­ing ef­fort at Rand­wick over 1000m last month.

“I think we might have found the way to ride him — switch him off, ride him quiet and give him one last crack at them so he doesn’t have time to think about it,’’ Berry said. “He has drawn an awk­ward bar­rier (11) but that doesn’t worry me too much as I will take him back early and let him un­wind late.

“I would be more con­fi­dent if this race was at Rand­wick as Rose­hill is a bit more tricky for him.

“But I will cover him up early then give him one last crack at them — if he is good enough he will run them down.’’

Berry is hop­ing for bet­ter luck on As­terius when the grey-brown geld­ing con­tests the Christ­mas At The Gar­dens Hand­i­cap (1500m).

As­terius re­sumed with an eighth to Sweet Deal over 1300m at Rose­hill Gar­dens three weeks ago.

The geld­ing came from last on the turn, charged through the field only to run out of gal­lop­ing room over the fi­nal 150m and be beaten just 1.8 lengths.

“He showed a re­ally good turn of foot first up,’’ Berry said. “He’s had a few weeks be­tween runs and I’m con­fi­dent he will run well.

“We’ve drawn a good bar­rier (four) and I hope to set­tle a bit closer. I think he is def­i­nitely the horse to beat.’’

Berry’s other rides in­clude the Team Hawkes-trained Kil­macur­ragh, who is re­sum­ing in the ATC Tip­ping Com­pe­ti­tion Hand­i­cap (1400m).

Kil­macur­ragh is raced by Ru­pert Legh of Chau­tauqua fame, which means Berry will get to wear the owner’s fa­mous rac­ing colours of navy blue with a gold light­ning bolt on his chest.

“It will be great to wear those colours again,’’ said Berry, who rode Chau­tauqua to some of the cham­pion sprinter’s great­est wins. “I’ve never rid­den Kil­macur­ragh, I’ve never even seen him.

“But when the Hawkes sta­ble bring them up from their Mel­bourne sta­bles they usu­ally race very well in Syd­ney.’’

James McDon­ald (left) and Tommy Berry both have strong books of rides at Rose­hill Gar­dens this af­ter­noon.

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