We are delighted to be able to bring you this interview with John Berry, a man we have long admired. John has a fantastic outlook on life and that show’s with his horses. His yard is a shining beacon in the world of racing and with Roy Rocket, they have a horse fast approaching Legendary status….
You have been a trainer for more than two decades now and have seen racing change in so many ways, do you think that the smaller stables will find it hard to attract owners?
Yes. There are fewer smaller owners all the time and an ever greater proportion of the horses are raced by the major operations, who generally want their horses in big stables. And there are plenty of small stables competing for the ever-diminishing amounts of patronage
Did you have any mentors and who has been an inspiration to you?
Many people. Too many to name. l worked at various times for both Andy Turnell and Luca Cumani, and both provided a great grounding. I have great respect for both men. Ditto for Chris Dwyer, whom I worked alongside shortly after we had both come to Newmarket in the ’80s.
He has been a great friend and rock-solid source of inspiration and moral support, as has my friend Lawrence Wadey, who has had horses with me from the start and has been the staunchest patron and friend anyone could have. I was delighted to train The Rocket Park to win for him at Southwell recently.
What is your view on racing clubs and could this be the way to attract future owners?
Yes. Clubs and syndicates are the future of domestic ownership as the number of individual sole owners continues to drop.
I have asked a few trainers the same question recently about the Stable staff crisis…. What is your view on this?
It’s not a problem for me, but in general it is one of racing’s biggest problems. And it will continue to grow. It’s the same for most outdoor jobs – young people all seem to want to work indoors nowadays.
Do you think the smaller stables, will have to become duel racing yards to keep things going all year round?
Nowadays there is Flat racing 12 months of the year and jumps racing 12 months of the year, so there already is the situation that very few stables have certain periods of the year where they don’t have runners.
The majority of trainers have dual licenses, rather than Flat-only or National Hunt-only, but that’s by the by: one can stick to one code or the other, and still have runners all year round.
What is your view on the Prize money situation with regards to the lower class races and what can be done about this?
The prize money for the lower-tier races, ie for most races, only makes a very small contribution to the costs of producing, training and racing the horses. This is a huge problem, but I don’t know that there is an answer to it. If an answer does exist, nobody knows what it is.
How is Roy Rocket and have you been surprised at the level of media attention that his 9 wins at Brighton has received?
He’s fine, thank you. He’s a very tough horse who is generally in good health and heart. Yes, the publicity which his visits to Brighton have generated has been remarkable. I’ve found it very moving and very heartening.
I read that John Egan sings to Roy Rocket, when they are in race, is this true or just an urban legend?
I don’t know. I read that too, but I’ve never asked him.
Where will Roy Rocket fan’s be able to see him again?
At Brighton again in 2019, I hope. There are no more middle-distance races there that he is eligible for in the final meetings of this year. We might give him the odd run elsewhere in the autumn, and perhaps at Kempton over the winter.
He takes his racing very well and isn’t the easiest horse to train and he can have his own ideas about what he does or doesn’t want to do, so it’s handy to give him the odd run even during his quieter periods simply to keep him ticking over.
Do you have a go to Jockey or do you book whoever is available?
Just whoever’s available. On busy days there could be half a dozen meetings or more, so you just have to see who is at the meeting. You tend to like to use jockeys with whom you have been lucky previously.
For me that includes John Egan, Nicola Currie and Silvestre De Sousa, but by and large they’re all good riders and it generally doesn’t really matter who you end up with on the horse.
What does the future hold for Team Berry? And do you think you will have another Roy Rocket or Largesse?
You just try to keep going, to keep generating enough income to stay in business. I hope that I can keep doing that. I’ve been doing it for 24 years now so I hope that I can last a while longer. It’s what I do so I wouldn’t willingly stop. Physically it is a very demanding job, so the time will come at some point when age starts to catch up with me and make it less feasible.
And as regards horses, you keep hoping that you’ll unearth a special one, and once in a while you do, often when you least expect it. I’ve never trained a top-class horse, but there have been many who have been great horses for us, including Largesse, Il Principe, Jack Dawson, Brief Goodbye, Benedict, Extreme Conviction, Kadouchski, Ethics Girl, Indira, Roy, Hope Is High and Kryptos. The last-named is currently resting because of slight tendon trouble, but I hope that he will resume racing in 2020. I like to think that potentially he is the best horse whom I have trained.
We would like to thank John for his time and wish him & the team all the best for the future. Good luck to Roy Rocket next season in pursuit of his 10th win at Brighton….
Pictures via John Berry(Twitter) & Roy Rocket’s Twitter account
Interview by Rich Williams