Berry honouring promise to late mate

Tommy Berry is aboard the favourites in both Group 1 races at Randwick but his most significant ride will be in the Highway Handicap.

Five weeks ago, Tommy Berry caught up for lunch with his good friend Neville Layt and the Queanbeyan trainer was keen for him to ride Redicon on Saturday. 

Sadly, Layt won't be there to see his plan come to fruition, the popular horseman losing his battle with cancer earlier this week. 

Saturday's race has been renamed the Neville Layt Highway and Redicon, with Berry aboard, will be the final runner in the late trainers' name. 

While Berry has plum mounts on Hilal and Masked Crusader – the favourites for the two G1 races on Saturday's card – the ride on Redicon means much more. 

"It's so good the stewards and the club have been able to leave the horse in his name. That's quite special," Berry said. 

"I had a great association with Neville and over time, he was more of a mate than just somebody I rode for." 

Tommy Berry, picture

Berry and Layt first crossed paths when the champion jockey was a young buck with big dreams. 

Along came a horse called Karuta Queen, the best Layt had ever had, and it was a youthful Berry he entrusted to partner her in the 2011 Magic Millions Classic. 

Berry got the job done and thanks to Layt's faith, other doors opened. 

"When I met up with Gai (Waterhouse) and she asked me to be her stable rider, her exact words were that her and her husband Rob had watched me ride Karuta Queen in the Magic Millions and loved the way I rated her at a young age under that sort of pressure," Berry said. 

"It was through riding that filly in the Magic Millions that got me the job at Gai's, which went on to help me be what I am now." 

Berry has never forgotten where he came from. 

Nor the experiences he and Layt have shared along the way, including their first trip to Melbourne with Karuta Queen when she finished second to Black Caviar in the 2011 Schillaci Stakes. 

"I turned up to ride trackwork (at Caulfield) and I had no idea where I was, he had no idea where he was," Berry said. 

"We were both like deers in headlights down there." 

Layt was a salt of the earth person, genuine, laconic and never short of a story. 

He was once suspended for leaping across the desk in the stewards' room and grabbing one of the stipes in what was more an impassioned plea than a threat. 

Berry reckons that story shows a lot about the man. 

"He wore his heart on his sleeve Neville, although that was one that got him into trouble," Berry said. 

Berry will be wearing his heart on his sleeve when he rides Redicon for his long-time friend on Saturday.