Berry's dream ride to the Melbourne Cup

The ''Mexican wave of emotion'', 100,000 fans and the biggest moment in Australian racing - Tommy Berry has run the Melbourne Cup thousands of times in his head dreaming of the day it would become a reality.

But before he could reach the pinnacle, Berry said he had to hit ''rock bottom'' on his journey to the race that stops a nation.

The 21-year-old hoop will make his Melbourne Cup debut on Tuesday and realise a boyhood dream when he rides the Gai Waterhouse-trained Glencadam Gold at Flemington.

It's the daunting moment which can define a jockey's career.

If Berry's nervous, he's not showing it.

And the reason is simple - in a brief and rising career, Berry has already felt the highs of winning a big race and the lows of being devoid of all confidence.


Just 18 months ago his time in Sydney was uncertain as he struggled for form with the Waterhouse stable.

''It's been a bumpy ride ... the real high of Karuta Queen's float and then when I went to Gai's [stable] I kind of hit rock bottom,'' Berry told The Canberra Times on the eve of the Cup.

''My confidence was gone. It took me maybe 30 rides to get Gai a winner and I went there probably expecting it to all happen straight away.

''Racing is an up and down game and I was definitely on a low ... it won't be the last time. But it makes you appreciate everything ... this game brings the best and worst out of you.''

Berry rose to prominence aboard Queanbeyan's Karuta Queen. He teamed with trainer Neville Layt to help establish the filly as one of the best sprinters in Australia.

Berry describes Karuta Queen as ''the backbone of my career''. His performances earned him a spot at the Waterhouse stables in Sydney in February last year, but Berry wasn't expecting the move to be so tough.

When he arrived, Waterhouse - one of Australia's leading trainers - declared she wanted to make Berry the best jockey in the country.

But when he failed to find a winner, he lost his confidence. It was Layt and Karuta Queen who helped him rediscover his spark at the end of last year.

He rode Karuta Queen to a second place at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day 12 months ago in the Schweppes Tonic (1000 metres).

Now Layt says Berry is returning to the biggest event on the Australian calendar ready to win the biggest race.

''For Tommy's sake, I hope he bolts in [today],'' Layt said.

''I told him to hang in there in Sydney ... Gai's a hard taskmaster but it's paying off for him now. He was getting despondent, but I think my little filly [Karuta Queen] gave him a leg up to get some confidence back. He's riding with a wet sail again.''

After riding at Canterbury on Friday night, Berry arrived in Melbourne to begin soaking up the Cup atmosphere.

He's been trying to avoid riding the race in his head before he settles in the gates. But he admits every time he's in the sauna he can't help but picture being first past the post.

Glencadam Gold was the favourite for the Caulfield Cup, but Waterhouse opted to use veteran Jim Cassidy.

The five-year-old picked up a minor hoof injury and finished deep in the field at 15th. Prior to the flop, Glencadam Gold had won his past four starts, including the group 1 Metropolitan (2400m). It was Berry's third group 1 triumph after winning the Epsom Handicap (1600m) aboard Fat Al and the Golden Rose (1400m) on Epaulette in September.

Now Berry's back on board Glencadam Gold and beneath the excitement and nerves of being the centre of attention, there's a belief he can win the Cup in his first attempt.

''Last year I watched the Cup from the clock tower at Flemington … it's one of the most amazing things I've done,'' Berry said.

''I can't imagine what it's going to be like out there. From the moment they jump from the barriers it's a Mexican wave of emotion through the crowd.

''I've ridden in big races before, I feel I'm kind of used to the big crowds and the pressure.

''When you think about being a jockey, you think about the Melbourne Cup - not a mid-week race at Canterbury ... I've been thinking about this for as long as I've been in racing.''