Jockey Tommy Berry has enjoyed his stints in Japan. Picture: AAP
Jockey Tommy Berry has enjoyed his stints in Japan. Picture: AAP

Berry relives ‘jail jockey’ days in Japan

Tommy Berry would check into jockey compound in Japan, he affectionally dubbed "jockey jail", each Friday with little more than a small bag of personal effects and riding essentials.

The on-course jockey living quarters - built in the name of integrity - is like quarantine and school camp for Japanese riders that (willingly) get locked up weekly for up to 48 hours.

No internet, no phones, no nothing but clockwatching, movie marathons, race day preparation and communal meals.

 

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But Berry, who rides Japanese raider Kluger in Saturday's Cox Plate, has fond memories of being invited to ride in Tokyo in 2016 and 2017 and weekends in the "jockey jail".

"You go in there Friday night and you get out Sunday night after the last (race)," Berry said.

"It's a bit of a tough and lonely time, when I first started it I actually enjoyed it, was good to get away from everything, relax and worry about your body and what you had on that day."

To pass the time, the few internationals like Berry relied on downloaded movies and the basic Japanese words and phrases to socialise with the local riding contingent.

 

Popular jockey Tommy Berry says his time in Japan remains one of highlights of his career.
Popular jockey Tommy Berry says his time in Japan remains one of highlights of his career.

 

"The time goes very slow when you've got nothing to do," Berry said.

"It would probably be a lot tougher for me now because I've got a family and not being able to speak to my wife and the kids and that so that would be tough."

But riding in Japan remains one of the highlights in Berry's decorated career, and something the top jock would "love to" explore again one day.

The passion for racing in Japan is second to none.

Horses and jockeys are celebrities, complete with actual fan mail - not the rubbish online trolling some participants can experience in Australia from losing gamblers.

 

Jockey Damian Lane rides Lys Gracieux (R) and jockey Tommy Berry rides Kluger during a trackwork session at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne, Tuesday, October 16, 2019. Pic: AAP
Jockey Damian Lane rides Lys Gracieux (R) and jockey Tommy Berry rides Kluger during a trackwork session at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne, Tuesday, October 16, 2019. Pic: AAP

 

Berry's class and success in Japan has led to him getting rides for the country's top stables.

The star jockey credited the schooling of budding stayers in Japan and the resources available to trainers to their success in Australia.

Lys Gracieux - a multiple Group 1 winner in Japan - has been well-supported to win the Cox Plate just seven days after compatriot Mer De Glace claimed the Caulfield Cup.

"They know what type of horse they got to bring here and done very well doing it so far," Berry said.

"Especially this bloke (Kluger) he's that Group 2 (and) Group 3 horse in Japan and when he comes here he performs well in Group 1 races."

Kluger finished fourth at his Australian debut in the Doncaster Mile last April before giving Winx a "scare" in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.

"They get a great grounding from when they're yearlings … worked on woodchips uphill, they got so many different tracks that we unfortunately don't have here in Australia," Berry said.

"They get a lot more miles into their legs and work harder on softer tracks and it seems to build up a great grounding for them when they get older."

Berry has no problem riding Japanese horses but his grasp of the language is "terrible".

"I picked up quite a bit when I was over there but I haven't been over there for a couple of years now so anything I did learn I've forgotten," Berry said.

 

News Corp Australia


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