Berry on song for season's start

Richard Edmondson on the trainer getting country help for injured jockeys
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The Independent Online
One of the great challenges of racing journalism is to go through a whole piece on Jack Berry without mentioning red shirts. It is a test most of us fail very early on.

While Ken Clarke's wardrobe has the rubble of brown suede shoes on the floor, Berry's rail has been a row of red shirts from the moment the distinctive vestment brought him luck as a jumps jockey. Long before the charity symbol of last week's red nose, the apparel of the same hue became known for worthy deeds within racing.

Jack Berry was a fund-raising figure before his son Sam suffered quite horrible injuries when Solares buried him at Sedgefield in 1988, but since that moment his efforts have been redoubled. For the last eight years, the Flat trainer has organised funds and a winter trip to the Tenerife resort of Mar-y-Sol for many people disabled by the sport of racing.

Next month a party of 35 beneficiaries, including Fred Winter, Jessica Charles-Jones, Paddy Farrell and Johnny Haynes, plus another 20 helpers, will travel to the fringe of the Tropic Of Cancer and the salubrious properties of the Canary Islands. Running costs of close to pounds 40,000 will have to be met, which is why Jack has been seen lately in the unfamiliar dress of cowboy hat, holster, guitar and (for those of you who are counting this is already the third unprofessional mention) no red shirt.

Big Jack has branched into the recording business with an album called Off And Running, which is also now the name of a juvenile by Paris House in his Cockerham yard. The main protagonist in this work is Bob Kendall, who combines country and western singing with equine physiotherapy, and sounds just like the sort of bloke you need when the cattle drive sets off from the Lazy Q.

Berry, who claims no ancestry with Chuck, sings "The Jolly Farmer" and "The Pub With No Beer" in this opus and a measure of his ability will be on show at the Lesters ceremony in London on Sunday, when the trainer will lay himself bare before the 650 guests. "They'll find out if I can sing or not then and, if I can't, at least it'll show I've got plenty of balls," the crooner said yesterday.

While Off And Running is competing in the charts, there will be coins from other sources pouring into the chest. Berry donated a pounds 300 fee from yesterday's opening of a Preston bookmakers and soon it will be red shirt (four) night at Pontefract, when the crowd at the West Yorkshire track take on the appearance of Garibaldi and his Italian nationalists.

There is, of course, other racecourse business that Jack Berry needs to attend to. His stable has a reputation for sending out a battery of winners before the cuckoo calls and this is a standing the trainer does not want diminished. "It's been a miserable winter," he said. "January was dry, but it was also so cold with a bitter wind and February didn't miss a day with rain. But this week has been brilliant and the horses look tremendous.

"I wouldn't like to run a bad horse early on in the season. Our two-year- olds have such a great following with the punters that it's only fair to give them a fair crack of the whip."

Those that will not be trying for a handicap mark then when the Flat season starts at Doncaster include Somosierra, who runs in the Brocklesby on Thursday, I'm Not Sure, in the seller the following day, and Detroit City.

Most of all though, the indefatigable Jack Berry, who will be 60 this year, would like to record a Group One success this season. He has been achingly close before and it seems he will not go before a victory at the highest level has been bestowed on his part of Lancashire. "I'll get there one day," he said. "They will have to give one to me one day."

Off And Running: Tapes pounds 5, CDs pounds 8 (both plus 40p postage) to: The Record Account, Moss Side Racing Stables, Cockerham, Lancs.

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