Racing: Time is ripe for new Berry

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The Independent Online
GIVING UP is something of a trend among trainers just now, and complaints about how difficult it is to make the game pay are rarely far behind. It will be different, though, when Jack Berry's training licence expires at the end of next year, for when Berry hands over the reins to his son, Alan, at the end of the 1999 season, his Cockerham yard will be a testament to what can be achieved with a mixture of talent, enthusiasm and endless hard work.

Other trainers may have saddled more winners in the very best races, but none, surely, has climbed more rungs on the ladder than Berry.

Moss Side Stables was a derelict farm when Berry arrived in 1972. It is now one of the most modern training establishments in Britain, which famously turns out two-year-olds and sprinters month after month in a mood to run as if their lives depended on it.

Sixteen-hour days have always been a bare minimum for Berry, who turned to training when his career as one of the first ever freelance jump-jockeys - with 47 winners in 12 years - was ended by a series of crushing falls. He has been working like that for 30 years, but even so his enthusiasm is undimmed.

"I'm not sour with the game, I still love it, I really do," Berry said yesterday. "It's just that we've got a son who deserves a chance. I've tried to get him a yard for the last two or three years, but he won't go anywhere else because he's spoilt for choice at our place, he's got every facility he could imagine.

"It's not a case of me donning carpet slippers. I'll still be buying yearlings and helping with the horses, but Alan will hold the licence and I'll go under him, just like the Peter and Tim Easterby set-up."

It is difficult to imagine that Berry will have the faintest idea of what to do with his spare time. Even when he was sending out great processions of winners year after year, he found room to raise many thousands of pounds for injured jockeys, and also produced one of the most straightforward and honest sporting autobiographies ever written - It's Tougher At The Bottom - in the space of a few weeks.

There may be a chance to follow Leeds United more closely, or go to the cinema - something which he says he has not done since his youth. As he says, though, "if anything, I should go somewhere and get some lessons in how to relax. If I sit down for five minutes to have a cup of tea, I think that I should be doing something."

In the meantime, though, there is one piece of unfinished business which Berry would like to address during the course of his final season. Although his greatest ambition was realised in 1988 when So Careful won the Ayr Gold Cup, a victory in a Group One race has always eluded him. Bolshoi, who won the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, and Rosselli, who took the Norfolk Stakes the previous day, are the two horses most likely to plug the gap on his mantelpiece.

"Bolshoi would be unlucky if he didn't win a Group One, but Rosselli's a nice sort too and we've got some lovely yearlings," Berry said. "We'll be trying very hard to get one."

Even if that final achievement eludes him, though, Moss Side Stables is still on the up and the honour will surely fall one day to the new man in charge. "Last year we spent pounds 160,000 on a new gallop and we build something new every year," Berry said. "I've had a good life out of the yard and I believe our lad can go on and do even better"

If there is any justice on the turf, however, Berry senior will get his chance to go out at the very top.


Born: 7 October, 1937, in Leeds.

Married: To Josephine Mary, with two sons Alan and Martin "Sam".

Riding career: 47 winners over jumps 1957-1969.

First trainer's licence: 1969.

First winner: Camasco at Kelso, 16 December, 1969.

First Flat win: Fiona's Pet (ridden by Mrs J Berry), Wolverhampton, May 1974.

Best Flat season: 143 winners in 1991.

Big winners: Almost Blue (Molecomb Stakes 1988), Amron (Portland H'cap 1993), Bri-Eden (Ballyogan Stakes 1983), Distinctly North (Flying Childers Stakes 1990), Mind Games (Norfolk Stakes 1994), Paris House (Flying Childers Stakes 1991, Palace House Stakes 1993, Temple Stakes 1993), So Careful (Ayr Gold Cup 1988), Selhurstpark Flyer (Wokingham Stakes 1997 and 1998), Rosselli (Norfolk Stakes 1998), Bolshoi (Temple Stakes, King's Stand Stakes 1998).

Other information: Set a record with 63 two-year-old wins in 1989 and broke it in each of the next two years, ending up with 90 juvenile wins in 1991. Broke record for fastest 100 winners in a season by reaching his century on 17 July, 1991.