It was uttered, tongue in cheek, that when Julie Berry gave birth to twin boys during an electrical storm on 21st January back in 1991 that her and husband John toyed with the names ‘Stormie’ and ‘Normie’ for the newborns.
It would have been fitting. So entwined have the lives of the duo been that the story of one is incomplete without the other.
Nathan, born 14 minutes before Tommy, was all but the spitting image of his baby brother. Clear eyed and quick to smile, if not for being a brush of hair taller it was all but impossible to tell the two apart. Identification of a Berry was a conundrum few could unravel when confronting one alone. In their younger days there were few pointers. When they joined the riding ranks, eyes usually turned to their breaches to see which initial was parked before a name that was growing with familiarity – ‘Berry’.
Mother Julie explained with a smile at the cheek of the pair. It wasn’t uncommon for one to win a race and for the other to slip outside to collect the trophy and accolades. Twins. They do these things.
Having grown up around Warwick Farm Racecourse in Sydney’s western suburbs, the ‘Berry Boys’ were well known to racing folk. Father John, a foreman for trainer Paul Cave and later a trainer in his own right, is one used to the graft of early mornings, long days and no weekends. It surprised no one that his sons were to be intoxicated by the game from a young age.
Legged aboard horses at age seven, when they could have walked between the legs of most thoroughbreds, they were immediately smitten. First it was show jumping; then the ponies around the Cave Stable; next came cross country and hunting and chasing.
At 14 the blonde teens had their first taste of professional riding. In the murky light of early morning trackwork the late Tony Wildman, affable and fatherly, legged them aboard their first mounts. Their application and dedication ensured they were soon wanted commodities. Two morning rides for Peter Snowden, then two for Gary Portelli, two for Guy Walter and then whatever Paul Cave wanted them to ride. Finally John had access to his sons to work his team.
This singular drive to succeed on the back of a horse was shared by the brothers. Nathan was the first to secure an official race ride as an apprentice. Legged aboard one of Gary Neale’s at Hawkesbury, Nathan jumped, balanced his mount, began pumping his arms and legs and yelled, slapped and surged his mount to the line. With a grandstand bursting with family hollering and cheering, be rode home a long last. The result didn’t matter. The blonde was beaming. The family was in tears. He was now officially a rider.
Tommy wasn’t far behind. There was then the familial matter of who would salute first. A wager on a milkshake between the two was light inspiration. Tommy collected at Newcastle’s Broadmeadow Racecourse on 13th May 2007. Two hours later Nathan looked set to match this mark only to be claimed in the last bound when aboard Apple Stride.
Week after week, month after month the Berry’s vied for riding honours. The success of one inspired the other. With success came higher profiles. It wasn’t long before the light-hearted titles of ‘blueberry’ (Nathan) and ‘strawberry’ (Tommy) were outgrown. The boys were becoming men. Apprentices became senior riders.
As Equine Influenza cruelled racing across NSW in 2007, Nathan and Tommy relocated to Perth. A new city, new challenges. In the crucible of a new region they learnt much and returned more complete riders.
A few seasons on and with many more wins under his belt, Nathan was invited to ride for Mick Channon in Britain at only 19 years of age. It was the first of several international riding stints that soon included Hong Kong and Singapore.
Wins became stakes wins. Then came a high profile partnership with boom colt Unencumbered. Six rides. Five wins. A Magic Millions and almost two million in earnings were collected in quick time. A Golden Slipper beckoned only for illness to intervene.
The rawness of Nathan’s passing is being felt by family and friends around the world. That so many are grieving alongside his immediate family and wife Whitney is testament to the man himself. Kind, humble, cheeky and blessed with a devilish humour, Nathan Berry enriched the lives of others.
The China Horse Club and our trainers that had the privilege of associating with Nathan offer our condolences to Whitney, the Berry family and Schofield family.
“Nathan’s mortal body has passed away but his soul lives on eternally. We know he is in a better place now free from toil, and suffering. Our horses and our team members in Singapore and worldwide shall miss him dearly.”
- Teo Ah Khing, China Horse Club Chairman
“What a devastating loss, Nathan was a gifted horsemen of natural talent who had the world at his feet. Taken too soon. Nathan imprinted on lives not only in racing but outside of racing. He worked, he loved and lived leaving no stone unturned. It is just tragic it has been cut short. My hearty condolences go out to his newly wed wife Whitney, brother Tommy, Kevin and Julie Berry, Glyn and Tiffany Schofield and respective families. We will miss you mate.”
– Quinton Cassidy, CHC China Trainer
“In the short time we had the opportunity to get to know Nathan he made an enormous impact on us both professionally and personally. He was the most thoughtful person with a beautiful manner about him…words can’t describe how saddened we are by his passing. He will be dearly missed.”
– Michael and Anna Freedman, CHC Singapore Trainer
“Among his many qualities, Nathan consistently remained passionate and enthusiastic about his horses despite the many hardships we are all prone to experience in this game. He had a love of life and touched the lives of many around him. The heart felt tears in the eyes of every jockey before the last at Wyong on the 3rd of April spoke volumes of how much he meant to this community. I personally admired Nathan for the humility with which he handled the challenge of a twin brother in the limelight. How tragic to lose him right at the unveiling of his own bright light to the world.”
– James Cummings, CHC Australia Trainer.
“The entire racing ‘Family’ mourns the loss of a favoured son. There is enormous sadness to lose one so young and vibrant.”
– Robert Heathcote, CHC Australia Trainer
“A very sad day. Racing has lost a rising star and a true young gentleman.”
– John Thompson, CHC Australia trainer