Horse Racing

Missile Stakes: Tommy Berry begins premiership mission with victory in the first feature of the season

Tommy Berry chose a moment of triumph to talk about the pain of premiership defeat.

The star jockey rode a brilliant race on Phobetor to claim the first feature race of the new season, the Group 2 $200,000 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Phobetor gave young trainer Michael Costa his biggest race win – and conversely the opportunity for Berry to talk about one of the biggest disappointments of his riding career.

Berry rode 111 winners in Sydney during the 2020-21 season but it wasn’t enough to prevent rival James McDonald from claiming a third successive premiership with 131 wins.

“I was gutted,’’ revealed Berry of last season’s Sydney premiership outcome.

“I fell (20 wins) short of James and I think that was because I had too many suspensions during the season

“If you get suspended six or seven times like I did, then it is not going to help win a premiership.

“Look, I was happy I rode over 100 winners and had a good season but I have to try and win that premiership.

“I won’t stop until I get it, and it might never happen, but I will give it a red hot go again this season.’’

PHOBETOR! Takes out the G2 Missile Stakes for @mcosta_racing and @TommyBerry21 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/Evf9X5tpiS

Berry said his win on Phobetor is the perfect way to start his Sydney premiership quest.

“The start of a season is so important,’’ he said.

“You want to start the spring off well because that rolls into the rest of the year.’’

Phobetor ($5.50) was cleverly ridden by Berry to upset some high profile rivals in the Missile Stakes.

He burst between runners in the straight to score by a half-length from Chat ($13) with Fasika ($3.20 equal favourite) a close third.

Fasika had led from Kolding ($3.20 equal favourite and fifth placegetter) and the mare fought hard to claim the minor placing but was later found to have bled from both nostrils incurring an automatic three-month ban.

Berry said the confidence of Costa gave him the belief Phobetor wasn’t just making up the numbers in the Missile Stakes.

“Michael was really confident coming into today,’’ Berry said.

“He was under no illusions because we were up against some pretty smart horses but Phobetor had a fitness edge on them.

“At the half-mile, Phobetor was off the bridle a bit so I gave him a bit of a squeeze and he got over-travelling so I knew he was there ready to pounce.

“We were following Fasika into the straight and I was hoping she kicked enough to leave me a bit of an opening between her and Kolding.

“My bloke, as soon as he burst through, he was always going to win.’’

A satisfied Tommy Berry after winning the Missile Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Costa was at Doomben watching the Missile Stakes next to Racenet’s Ben Dorries and it’s fair to say the trainer “rode” Phobetor hard to the line.

The trainer was a former Sydney steward before changing careers to become a trainer, initially based at Warwick Farm before moving his business to the Gold Coast where he is emerging as an astute young horseman.

“Phobetor is my first Group 2 winner, we are over the moon,’’ Costa told Dorries.

“It’s good to go down to Sydney, to the old stomping ground and take their money.

“We got the gun run behind Fasika then just as it looked a bit dicey on the turn, he pushed Kolding out of the road.

“This win opens up a few opportunities for us now.’’

Berry remembers the days when Costa worked in Sydney racing which meant the jockey’s Missile Stakes win even more satisfying.,

“Michael was a steward here when (twin brother) Nathan and I were apprentices,’’ Berry said.

“Then when he started training at Warwick Farm, we had a fair bit to do with him and Nathan did a lot of riding for the stable.

“I remember Michael as a young trainer coming through the ranks with all these ideas about how to get new owners into racing

“He’s a very smart individual and he places his horses so well – his strike-rate says that and he’s definitely a trainer on the rise.’’

Harpo Marx makes light work of rivals

Promising stayer Harpo Marx raced his way into spring carnival contention courtesy of a classic James McDonald ride at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

McDonald, mindful Harpo Marx was burdened with a crushing 62.5kg, rode patiently at the back of the field, saved ground when he cut the corner on the final turn, eased around the leaders and finished strongly to win the Cliff Clare Handicap (2400m).

But any thought that McDonald’s tactics were premeditated were dismissed by the jockey after the race.

“I didn’t have a plan on how to ride the horse, to be honest,’’ McDonald said.

“I sort of just went with the flow and when they sprinted coming to the turn, the field started to fan so that’s when I decided then to stay inside runners rather than try and go around them with his big weight.

“He’s a strong stayer and finished the race off very well. When he goes up in grade, he will come down in weight and that will help him.’’

James McDonald gave Harpo Marx every chance to win. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Harpo Marx ($2.50 favourite) wore down his rivals to score an impressive win by a half-length from Master Shuhood ($19) with Terwilliker ($5) about a length away third.

Trainer Bjorn Baker lauded the genius of McDonald before revealing his ambitious play for Harpo Marx.

“It was an outstanding ride, especially when you have 62.5kg,’’ Baker said.

“You don’t want to be covering any extra ground or doing any more work than you have to in the run.

“It was a great ride and that’s why James is one of the best.’’

A superbly-bred Irish import by champion sire Galileo out of former Group 1 winner Nechita, Harpo Marx has now won six of his 23 starts and Baker said the gelding is destined for stakes races.

“Harpo Marx has been a really good horse for (owners) Darby Racing and myself,’’ Baker said.

“He has gone through his grades now and we will have to look at something better.’’

Baker said he will set Harpo Marx for the Listed $200,000 Wyong Gold Cup (2100m) at Wyong on September 3.

“I will give him a month between runs and it will be perfect for him going into the Wyong Cup,’’ Baker said.

“He’s still relatively untapped, he hasn’t hand too many runs and although you never quite know if they will take that next step to stakes grade I think this horse can.

“You can’t fault a performance like that when carrying big weight in what was a sprint home. It was a great effort to win.’’

Originally published asTitle defeat drives Berry to Missile victory

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