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Kayla Nisbet channels memory of Nathan Berry for her group 1 debut

Kayla Nisbet makes her debut at group1 level in the Goodwood on Saturday.

Kayla Nisbet makes her debut at group1 level in the Goodwood on Saturday.

Apprentice jockey Kayla Nisbet will wear the trademark goggles of the late Nathan Berry to provide extra inspiration for the biggest moment of her career on Saturday.

In a touching tribute to Berry, Nisbet will wear his blue-tinted goggles, which were given to her by Nathan's twin brother Tommy, when she makes her group 1 debut in the Goodwood at Morphettville.

Nathan, who won the Magic Millions in January, died last month after falling ill with viral encephalitis in Singapore.

His death shocked the tight-knit racing community, and Nisbet, who credits Nathan with kick-starting her career, had to take time off to grieve.

Nathan helped Nisbet secure an apprentice deal with Melbourne trainer David Hayes and they lived together for five weeks in Sydney.

That's why the 19-year-old treasures the goggles so much and will wear them when she rides Pago Rock in The Goodwood to pay tribute to Nathan.

"Tommy gave me two pairs of Nathan's goggles when he died. I've been wearing them every meeting, they're his trademark blue-tinted goggles," Nisbet said.

"It was devastating when he died. We're a close family, it shocked us all and I needed time off.

"I'd like to succeed for him. He loved racing and he helped me get up and going, I'll be wearing the goggles on Saturday, don't worry about that."

The Canberra jockey will be filled with mixed emotions when she gets out on the track.

The nerves and excitement of the group 1 debut will be overtaken by remembering Berry.

The Nisbet and Berry families have grown up together. Kayla's sister Sharnee is the partner of Tommy Berry.

"It was a traumatic time and I'm still in a bit of shock," Nisbet said.

"My older sister has been with Tommy for six years. I lived with Nathan and Tommy for five weeks before I started riding trackwork. Both of the Berry boys have played a huge part in my life and career."

Nisbet admits she thought she would never get the chance to ride in a group 1, but Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Hayes backed the teenager after steering Pago Rock to a last-start victory at Caulfield.

Nisbet's past 12 months have been a roller coaster ride.

A broken foot and fractured wrist stalled her rise through the ranks, she was stuck in traffic and missed riding a winner at Caulfield, and Berry's death rocked her family.

"It was up and down for a while. But it freshened me up and made me even hungrier," Nisbet said.

"It sucked at the time but in the long run it has been good."

It wasn't that long ago that Nisbet was riding for father John at country meets in Wagga, Canberra and Queanbeyan.

So is she nervous about getting the biggest opportunity of her career so far?

"I might be in the enclosure, but I know the horse and David is so relaxed," Nisbet said.

"It shocked me to get the ride. I knew he was going to the Goodwood, but as an apprentice I assumed I wouldn't get the ride on him.

"I never imagined I'd get a group 1 ride. You wish and hope for that, but I definitely didn't think it would happen. It's incredible and exciting. There's only a handful of girls who have ridden in group 1 races in Australia, so it's huge for me."

Nisbet has until the end of the year on her apprenticeship, but will likely extend it for another 12 months.

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