By Ray Hickson
Every now and then you see a jockey’s smile widen when they talk about a horse and Tommy Berry certainly does that if Master Of Wine is the subject.
And part of the reason for that, aside from the still to be tapped ability, is that Berry says he doesn’t need to worry when he rides the Team Hawkes import.
He doesn’t stress about tempo, about barrier, about position in running because he’s confident he’s on a horse that can adapt to anything and that will take him a long way to a maiden Group 1 win in Saturday’s $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
“He’s a very nice horse to ride because you don’t have to worry about where you are in the run,’’ Berry said.
“I feel like he is a horse that can perform at just about any distance from 1400m and above at quite a good level.
“There won’t be any real game plan with him. We’ll go out and get him into a nice rhythm, he’s pretty much sat everywhere in a race you possibly can bar lead.
“I’ve got no idea where we’ll end up and I’m not worried about where we’ll end up as long as he is nice and strong at the end of the race.
“If he’s on the speed it’s only because he’s put himself there, if he takes a while to get in his stride and gets back we know he has a good turn of foot and can run some of the quickest sectionals out of any horse in the race.’’
Master Of Wine has been a revelation, nothing short of it.
After taking some time to find his feet in Australia the gelding gave a glimpse of his potential with a couple of dominant wins at Randwick last spring but it was the autumn that stamped him as a potential star.
He showed his versatility first-up after winning over 2400m by sitting just off the speed at 1400m and ripping clear then had the audacity to turn a 2000m test on a heavy 10 into a one horse race at his next start.
But, then, he was thrown in the deep end at weight-for-age and endured a wide run but still hit the line running fourth behind Addeybb in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and in doing so set the bar for the spring.
“We saw what he did in the Queen Elizabeth which was no mean feat up against that opposition and being wide all the way,’’ Berry said.
“I have a high opinion of him. He surprised me how well he went in the Queen Elizabeth after the run he had.
“From now on all he can do is run up to that sort of form and that form is good enough to be competitive in any race coming into the spring.”
Master Of Wine showed his readiness for the Winx Stakes, where he was $6.50 equal favourite on Thursday, in a leisurely barrier trial gallop earlier in the week that left Berry brimming.
While it is a test against a high class line up Berry said he can’t wait to see what he produces.
“It’s another pain barrier he has to go through, it’s a big step up for him from what he measured up to first-up last prep but he did it so impressively,’’ he said.
“He’s there to run well, he’s been trained to run well first-up, he’s had two nice trials now without the blinkers on and they’ll go on and he’ll know it’s game on.”
Master Of Wine's trial at Rosehill on August 18
Berry has hit the ground running this season and a treble on Wednesday saw him join James McDonald at the top of the premiership and he hopes that momentum can continue with a handy bunch of rides at Randwick.
The include Dame Giselle ($3.90 in the Silver Shadow), Wild Planet ($8.50 in the Show County), he’s expecting Yamazaki ($12 in the Toy Show) to run well fresh and is confident Poetic Charmer ($6) can hold his form in the TAB Handicap (1400m).
Poetic Charmer has reinvented himself this preparation with two wins from three starts, the latest over 1300m at Rosehill on July 25, and Berry said the Snowden stable’s decision to take off the blinkers and let the horse settle has paid off.
“Last preparation the blinkers were on and he was always in the first four but this prep he has no blinkers and we’re letting him settle wherever he’s happy,’’ he said.
“He’s enjoying his racing more doing that and he’s been strong to the line late which is what he failed to do last preparation.
“We had him down as a bit of an un-genuine horse at times because he’d find himself in what we thought was the right spot but looking back he was probably out of his comfort zone.’’