Betting 360 Ep 006: Dave Gets Into Racing in Hong Kong with Jockey Tommy Berry

Betting 360 Podcast - Betting From All AnglesDave talks to rising star Tommy Berry who recently added the Hong Kong Group One QEII Cup on Military Attack to his Golden Slipper, Doncaster and other big race hauls.

Tommy is a young gun who reached celebrity status very quickly in racing mad Hong Kong. The horse racing scene is especially popular in Hong Kong as punting is the only legal form of gambling in the city and a typical raceday can see more than $100m AUD invested.

Punting Insights You’ll Find

  • The day-to-day routine and general lifestyle of a Hong Kong based jockey.
  • How favourites get no favours and why it’s so important to find a position.
  • What he has learned from all of the international riders.
  • Why he admires a jockey like Craig Williams.
  • The type of horse suited to Sha Tin and its similarities to Randwick.
  • The type of horse suited to Happy Valley and its similarities to Moonee Valley.
  • Why Military Attack has to be a strong chance for the 2013 Cox Plate.

Today’s Guest:

Tommy’s Closing Tip:

“I don’t think you can get enough of it. Experience is what the game is all about. I’ve only been here a month and a half and my riding has improved immensely, so the more riding experience I can get the better .”

Episode 005 : Dave dives Into Advanced Punting Using Race Statistics with Actuary Nick Aubrey

Welcome to Betting 360, your number one source for horse racing and sports betting insights. Coming around the bend is your host David Duffield, with another expert view to give you the winning edge.

David: Hello and welcome to Betting 360, I’m your host David Duffield and every week here I bring on a special guest, to look at punting from all different angles. And today I’m pleased to chat with Tommy Berry, he’s a guy that’s really taken the racing world by storm, since winning his first Group one last year that was on at Epaulette in the Golden Rose and a lot has happened for him since then. Including the Golden Slipper  on Overreach, the Doncaster on Sacred Falls, and a big Group One winner on his first day in Hong Kong. So let’s find out right now what punters can learn from a very good jockey who’s well and truly on the way up.

David: Hello again listeners, I’d like to welcome Tommy Berry to the show, how are you going Tommy?

Tommy: Very well thank you how are you?

David: Going well thanks, some minor technical problems but we’ll work through those. So just wanted to find out how you’re enjoying your time in Hong Kong, I know you’ve never been overseas before, so it must be a new experience for you.

Tommy: It’s been great, obviously like you said it’s my first trip overseas, and I’ve had great success since I’ve been here, and that probably helps a little bit, and a lot of great support from trainers and other jockeys who are willing to help from Australia as in Zac Purton and Tye Angland so they’ve made it feel a little bit more like home.

David: Good stuff, and I know you had another winner there yesterday with Jamesina, I’ve heard high profile jockeys are pretty much treated like rock stars in Hong Kong, what’s it like just in your everyday life?

Tommy: It’s great, like you said they’ve only got…the only betting you can do over here is at the races, so a lot of people watch TV, and a lot of people watch the races, so it doesn’t matter if you get into a cab to go somewhere, or coming home, or just at a shopping centre, everyone seems to know you. So it’s quite different, and a lot of people are willing to take photos a lot, and there it’s a bit more…there in your everyday life, which is a bit more different from home, but I’m slowly getting used to that which is good.

David: And what about the big change going from our almost everyday wall-t-wall racing, to just having a couple of meetings per week, what’s it been like adapting to that?

Tommy: Weight wise I’ve had a little bit of trouble with, I’ve been riding 52 kilos over the year which is 115, so it’s a couple of kilos lighter than what I’ve been riding back home. You seem to get a few more opportunities doing it that way, so it’s the way I chose to go, and it just gives you a little bit more time to eat not racing as many days over here. But I’m slowly getting my weight back under control, so that’s probably the main thing, but other than that the racing’s great and I’m really enjoying it thus far.

David: And so what is your weekly routine, I mean typically it’s you know, Wednesday is a night meeting, and either Saturday or Sunday is a day meeting, so how does your normal week pan out?

Tommy: Well I ride work every morning. At least 7 or 8, or maybe 6 in the morning, but we don’t have to get up till probably about 5:30am at the earliest, and sometimes 6:00 or 6:30, so it’s a little bit better than 3:30 starts back home. But I usually ride track work and finish around 8 o clock and I’ll have a little nap after that, and I’ve been doing a lot of hiking since I’ve been here, and a lot of bike riding and a lot of fitness work, and I feel that I’m as fit as I’ve ever been at this stage which is great. And then there’s plenty of going out to lunch with owners and friends, so it’s quite a social life here.

David: Right so just in terms of the other jockeys out there, I know that there’s three other Australians, that you mentioned they’ve helped you settle in so it’s that they’ve been some camaraderie amongst the Australians, that there not just like any other jockey that’s trying to beat you twice a week?

Tommy: There out there to beat us that’s for sure, I’m good mates with Tye and Zac, and we spend a fair few days together hanging out. But once we’re on the race track, both of them have held me out three wide plenty of times, so there’s definitely no friends when we get out there, but that’s the great thing about racing no one hold grudges once you’re out there on the track. We’re all out there to do a job and try and win for our owners and our trainers, so it’s been good having those two over here and been able to help me out.

David: So you haven’t been in Hong Kong all that long, but how did you even get started in getting your head around the form?

Tommy: Just took a lot of time watching a lot of replays, and the Hong Kong racing website is one of the best racing websites in the world. You can watch the horse do track work, trials, all their races, and never miss anything. So I started watching a lot of replays probably a month or two before I even came to Hong Kong, and instead of being able to go through the form, and just go through the names and know exactly where they’re going to be and what they’ve done, you’ve actually got to get right into to it, but that’s okay, you’ve gotta do that and it’s paid off so far.

David: So what did you notice when you were watching the replays, in terms of how different it was to the Sydney scene?

Tommy: That you’ve got to find your position quite quickly otherwise it’s gone here. They’re very competitive, and if there’s only a length and a half to a length and three quarters you’re not going to be able to get in. It’s not like Australia where, once we find our position we’re happy to be there, you know here if you’re on a favourite or something that’s got a bit of a chance, they’ll make it as difficult as they can for you which is good, it teaches you to be a little bit more sharper and make your decisions quicker. So I noticed that a lot, and obviously watching Happy Valley and how tight the track is, it’s quite a unique track and I’ve really enjoyed riding there.

David: So I know sometimes in Sydney, not yourself, but other jockeys can be criticised, that you know someone like Nash Rawiller is very strong and they might be afraid of taking him on, you’re saying in Hong Kong it’s a genuine free for all.

Tommy: Yeah it doesn’t matter if you’re a Douglas White, Zac Purton, or me over here. Everyone’s out there riding for themselves, and we’re all from different parts of the country…not the country sorry the world, and every jockey there is there because they deserve to be. They’ve been champion jockeys back home, so you’re not just riding against any other jockey, you’re riding against some of the best in the world. So they’re not out there to do any favours.

David: What do you learn from someone like Douglas White, who’s been so dominant for so long?

Tommy: Not too much what you learn from him, it’s just you watch the way he does things, and Zac since he’s been here has changed a lot, not just as a person, he’s grown up a lot as a person, but as a rider he’s really matured. And I don’t ask too many questions of why he’s here, because they’re all here to do a job, it’s not like back home where they’ve got a bit of time to help you, it’s pretty full on, so I watch what they do and observe, and try and learn from it. And I’ve picked up a fair few things since I’ve been here, just watching the way they ride, and how sharp they are when they’re thinking, so it’s been just great just to ride against them riders.

David: And so the things that you pick up, are you talking about the way they prepare or actually in the race itself?

Tommy: The way they prepare for a race, and in a race, and how quick they are at making a decision. Whether they’re going to go inside or outside, or going forward or back to get their position. They can draw out wide and still get one off the fence, it’s not very easy to do, but you’ve gotta be very quick and really know your form, so I’ve been taking good note of what they’ve been doing and trying to learn from that.

David: Alright and what about in terms of riding styles, I mean there’s such a mix of local and international jockeys, have you picked up much in terms of the different riding styles, anything that you would implement into your own style?

Tommy: Oh not really, I’ve kind of established my own style of late and I’ve been watching Craig Williams a lot who I really admire as a rider. But you watch a couple of the French jockeys Olivier Doleuze he’s got a beautiful style, and then there’s a couple of South African jockeys who ride really well, and there’s so many different styles but they’re all effective. And I’ve always looked at jockeys and tried to base myself on a couple of them, and as I said Craig Williams has been one, but I think every jockey’s got their own style, and I don’t think you’d want to change it too much.

David: Alright and how have you found the general pace of the races over there, do you find it’s more solid throughout, rather than sometimes locally it can be a bit more of a sit and sprint?

Tommy: Well in Australia, like as I said we find our position, and we’re happy to settle and we get to the 600 and people start making any move. Where here it’s a little bit more full on, you know if they’re not happy with the pace they’ll take off and go around you, and they don’t really like being caught wide here which isn’t a bad thing. They press forward and get in, so they are usually a lot more genuine run races, but like even if you saw yesterday there was a few slow run races, so it’s not all the time but you know most of the time they’re pretty solid.

David: Alright and what does it take to get on the better horses, I know you’ve had quite a bit of success since you’ve been up there, but how much of it is literally just riding winners, and how much of it is doing the wining and dining or chasing for the better rides?

Tommy: Well for me it was just having a great start when I came here, obviously riding the Group One on the first day, just shows what I’ve been doing and the only two meetings a year that they show here are in Hong Kong, are the Golden Slipper and Doncaster. So they got a little bit of a taste of the way I rode before I came here, so I guess I have a little bit of a head start there, but I spend a fair bit of time talking to the trainers of a morning and communicating in that way. I’ve really enjoyed meeting a lot of new faces and a lot of new owners, so you’ve just got to be kind and be very informative, and let them know about their horse and how they’ve been going, and what you think about the race. So that comes back to your form and knowing where you’re going to be in the race because the owners love to hear that so, yeah that’s about it.

David: Alright, and tell us about morning track work, I know there’s plenty of scrutiny on it and it’s televised, and replayed, and the people doing the form put a lot of importance on it, so again how different is that to what you’re used to back home?

Tommy: You don’t really think about it. You just go out there and do your thing, but you ride work every 15 minutes and they book you for track work like it’s a race, like race day. They ring you the night before and book you for track work, and you give them your time 7 to 7:15, to 7:30, so you do it about every 15 minutes. And you don’t have to trot them up, you get on them working straight away, so it’s quite easy, it’s quite quick, and you’re done fairly early. So it’s very enjoyable, but as for the televised track work I don’t really take much notice of that.

David: Alright and how have you found the Sha Tin track, I mean what type of horse is best suited to it, or ideally I’m talking about the races around a bend, where would you like to be in the run?

Tommy: Sha Tin’s quite similar to Randwick, you can kind of be, unless there’s a bit of a bias, you can really win from anywhere there. Yesterday the track was on the firm side, and the horses were winning in front, from behind, inside, and the outside. So it’s quite an even track, there’s rarely a bias but if you’ve got the 1000 metres down the straight you’d want to be near the stand side, so down the outside of the track. It seems to be a bit of an advantage there, so for Sha Tin  it’s quite an even track, but it’s just that 1000 metre shoot you’d rather be closer to the stand side.

David: And you compare it Randwick?

Tommy: Yes just that it’s a beautiful big spacious track. It’s got a lovely 1800 metre shoot travels right down the back of the straight, so it gives every horse the opportunity to find their position, and once again down the straight it’s got a nice big long straight, so if you are back in the field it does give you an opportunity to get home.

David: And what about Happy Valley, that’s the normal Wednesday night venue, what kind of horse do you think is suited there, and what would you compare it to locally in terms of the track?

Tommy: The closest you could compare it to is obviously Moonee Valley. It’s a real small type track with a short straight, but it’s a little bit tighter than Moonee Valley and the starts are very tricky. You don’t have a very long run till the first corner, so you have to find your position very quickly and you’ve got to be quite sharp, and gates are really crucial at Happy Valley. If you draw wide, it makes it very difficult because you just can’t sit three wide and win it’s almost impossible, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on the favourite. If you’re three wide you’re almost in a bit of trouble straight away, so it’s a track where you’ve got to have a lot of tactics involved, it’s not a very easy track to ride. Especially when it gets out into the C plus position, it’s quite a sharp turn coming around the home corner, so you’ve got to try and hug that corner and kick off it, so it really suits them smaller horses that rail quite well.

David: And when you say the ‘C plus’ you’re talking about basically as far out as the rail goes?

Tommy: Yeah Yeah, C plus three is as far as it can go so that’s quite wide, they do it…it’s a bit different from back home, the rail could be in the A position, A plus three, and then B, B plus three, and C, C plus three, so it’s quite different from back home.

David: Alright, a horse like Military Attack is probably a good gauge as to the quality of the Hong Kong horses, and the Hong Kong horses had a good Singapore Carnival. I know you were on Military Attack almost your first day in Hong Kong for this stint, what can you tell us about that horse, and also just how that win kicked off your Hong Kong experience?

Tommy: Well he’s a real nice horse. Before I got him early on probably a couple of seasons ago, they were riding him back, and he was flying home all the time, so when he won the Gold Cup they decided to ride him a little bit more forward. And it suited him quite well because he’s a horse that you can make a little bit of use to him early, and he travels very well in a race, and he’s got a very  explosive turn of foot, and he can sustain a nice long run.

So really everything you want in a good horse, a good Group One horse, he’s got it, and he’s showed that in his last four starts, so he’s definitely a horse that they’re thinking of taking him to Moonee Valley, which I think will suit him. He’s a horse who puts himself up in the pace which will be good, and he’s won at Happy Valley a few times, so he’s able to get around tight tracks, so he’s a very nice horse. And as for kicking off my career in Hong Kong, well he couldn’t have done much more for me, he probably made it look quite easy, I gave him a very nice ride but as I said he made it look quite pretty, and really extended when I asked him.

So I think winning in group one on your first day, there’s not much more you can do or there’s not much more to prove, so that really kicked me off. But since then I’ve been working very hard to make sure that wasn’t no fluke, and I’ve been quite lucky to ride a winner on every meeting bar two, so it’s been great.

David: And from memory I don’t think you wanted to go too early on Military Attack, it looked like you had a lap full of horse.

Tommy: Yeah I did, I was flushed out a little bit earlier than I wanted to be. But I didn’t want to be put in the pocket, so that’s where I was saying about him having such a long sustained run, he was able to pop out about the 700 and keep that run the whole way of the pace, so it takes a good horse to do that, and he did it very well.

David: So speaking of weighing up Aussie form versus Hong Kong, you rode Kabayan on the weekend and he was a Group two winner in Sydney, what did you think of his debut on Sunday, I know he was drawn wide and you had to snag him back, how do you see his career progressing in Hong Kong?

Tommy: I think he’ll be a very nice horse next season. His work’s been very good thus far, and it takes a little bit of time for the Australian horses to adapt to Hong Kong. But he was very relaxed yesterday in the yard which I was quite surprised, and he didn’t have much of a sweat, but he was first up over a mile so there’s definitely going to be improvement there with him. And as I said, we did have to stay back from the wide barrier and they went very very steady in the race, he’s a horse who in Australia raced on the pace, so it’s a little bit different for him, but he ran on quite nice and as I said I think he’ll be a very nice horse next season.

David: Alright we’ll thanks for your time today, but just before I let you go it’s a pretty obvious question to finish up with, and that’s do you think down the track you could take an extended stint in Hong Kong, and settle there for a few years?

Tommy: Yeah whether it’s soon or later on. If I don’t go back at the start of next season, which at the moment I don’t think I will be, definitely at the last three months of the next season. I wouldn’t mind doing the same as I’ve done this season, seing as I’ve enjoyed it so much, and then I might think of staying on after that, so it’s all up in the air at the moment. But I’m very blessed and fortunate to have a few options on my side, so I’ll just see where it takes me, and what opportunities I’ll get along the way.

David: You mentioned Craig Williams as someone you admire, he’s definitely benefited from all the international experience he’s had.

Tommy: I don’t think you can get enough of it. Experience is what this game’s all about, and I definitely think just being here, I’ve only been here a month and a half, and my riding’s improved immensely, so I think the more experience I can get the better.

David: Excellent, appreciate your time today. All the best for the rest of this season and when you make it back down under.

Tommy: It’s been a pleasure, thanks for that Dave.

Thanks for tuning in to Betting 360.  Get more in depth analysis, tips and that betting edge by heading over to where you’ll find a full transcript of this episode.  If you liked the show, share us with a fellow punter or drop by iTunes to leave us your thoughts.  Betting 360, punting from all angles.

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