TOMMY Berry may have a frightening contingent of international raiders to overcome in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, but come race day, he’ll have a Raider of his own riding him home the Flemington straight.
The Sydney-based hoop is set to become the brother-in-law to Canberra Raiders forward Luke Bateman, who recently became engaged to Canberra-based jockey Kayla Nisbet.
Berry, who has secured the ride on the Richard Freedman-trained stayer Auvray in the Cup, is married to Kayla’s sister Sharnee.
“He’s sick for racing, he loves it,” Berry said of the NRL hardman.
“He’s been a champion since day one and we’ve got along really well. I’m really looking forward to him joining the family.”
For Berry, Bateman will be a welcome addition to the Nisbet clan boasting six daughters.
The renowned racing family had few ties with rugby league prior to Bateman’s arrival, but the Western Sydney-raised Berry has had a long-running passion with the sport.
“I love my football so it works well for both of us, it’s really good,” Berry said.
“He asks a lot of questions when he’s here, he wants to learn about it, and I do the same about football.
“He’s made a lot of friends on my side of the fence because he loves his racing, and I’ve made a lot of good friends like Jarrod Croker and a few others on his side.”
The racing industry has been a welcome change of scenery for the Brisbane-born Bateman, who had few ties to the sport prior to his move to Canberra in pursuit of an NRL career in 2013.
Introduced to the gallops by avid racing fanatic and Raiders skipper Croker, Bateman now has a share in several trotters, with his newfound passion taking him to Sha Tin racecourse while Berry was contracted to ride in Hong Kong.
“My family never really had anything to do with racing so it’s been a bit of a learning curve going into a family where racing’s been their whole life,” Bateman said.
“Even before Sharnee met Tommy her dad was a jockey and then a trainer, they grew up on the racecourse.
“It is exciting, you learn bits and pieces of the racing game each season being so close to it.”
Berry saddles up former French stayer Auvray in the $7.3 million Flemington handicap.
Auvray ran a gallant sixth (1.7L) in the Metropolitan over 2400m as top weight two starts back, before struggling on heavy ground in the St Leger stakes at his previous run.
Auvray will need to defy history if he’s to cause a boilover at big odds in the Cup, with Catalogue (1938) and Toryboy (1865) the only eight-years-olds to triumph in the famous race.
Unfazed by statistics, an upbeat Berry knows Auvray ticks a key box that has him in serious contention to topple his more fancied rivals.
“He’s not the best horse in the race. He’s not the best credentialed horse in the race. But with the Melbourne Cup there’s always going to be half the field that can’t stay, that’s something that we’re not going to have to worry about,” he said.
“Before he came over here he won twice over 3000m in France, so he’s got that good staying form.
“Obviously once he got back up to the 3200m in the Sydney Cup he ran a cracker as well and wasn’t beaten by too far.
“Even going back to last year in the St Leger he was finishing right around Big Duke who then came on and finished fourth in the Melbourne Cup. So form wise he seems to stack up.”
As for getting the inside running on any hot tips, Berry said Bateman has learned a valuable lesson about the industry.
“I think jockeys are probably the worst tipsters and he’s figured that out over the last few years, so he doesn’t ask for too much anymore.”
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