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Shergar Cup reflections ahead of Ascot on Saturday


Fran Berry looks back on his Shergar Cup highlights from the past and nominates a couple of riders worth looking out for at Ascot this weekend.

Significance of the Shergar Cup

The Shergar Cup is a special day and a unique day for everyone taking part as well as the fans and people looking on from all over the world.

Me and my family have got some fantastic memories of the day after I represented the Britain and Ireland team four times and had plenty of success over the years.

The prize money is good, it’s very competitive racing, and you’re dealing with riders from around the world with different styles.

I’ve made a lot of friends while riding at the Shergar Cup. Umberto Rispoli, Per Anders-Graberg from Sweden and a few of the Australian jockeys I’d have met before from my travels have all been great to ride against over the years. We enjoyed some real camaraderie.

At the end of the day you’re going out in team colours, effectively representing your country, and everyone at home is watching, so it was always a real honour to be asked to be part of it.

If you do well then it’s all the better.

Relaxed but high-octane at the same time

It’s completely unique from a jockeys’ perspective and there’s always a brilliant atmosphere with Ascot attracting one of its biggest crowds of the whole year outside of the Royal meeting in June.

The whole day can be a great opportunity for any jockey but with the domestic riders, in particular, it can be a springboard to put you front and centre and back in people’s minds.

A lot of the riders coming from further afield are almost on a bit of a working holiday and no doubt trying to make a week out of it. The way the conditions of the races are structured allows riders to be a little more relaxed over their weight too, but come raceday everyone gets on with things very professionally.

If you’re riding at the Shergar Cup you’re obviously very competitive anyway and when it's game-time you really do want to win. There’s plenty of totting up of the scores and working out how best to ride a race to get the most amount of points for the team as possible throughout the afternoon too.

The weirdest feeling is when you’re not involved in a race – every jockey has to sit out a couple of races on the day typically – and there’s just one other jockey in the Ascot weighing room while a race is going on. That’s a very strange scenario as it’s usually a hive of activity with loads going on around you.

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Personal highlights

I rode some good horses at the Shergar Cup and struck up some good partnerships too.

Micky Quinn’s Great Hall won there in 2017 and went on to win again at Ascot later that season as well as a nice handicap at Yarmouth. The meeting can just open up opportunities that you might not normally have got due to other commitments.

Off the track, I had a couple of really memorable trips with Pat Smullen and another good friend of mine called Tommy O’Connor who used to drive me in Ireland. We all travelled over together for what was a big day and Pat and Tommy are both no longer with us so I’ve some special memories when you look back on it all now.

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Riders from across the globe

Every jockey has a different make-up in terms of how they approach things and the style they have in the saddle.

When you’re back in the pack you can watch on and really notice how the American-style riders like Emma-Jayne Wilson differ from the European riders and then the Australian and Asian riders as well.

You’re always trying to pick up things that work for others and Joao Moreira, a multiple champion in Hong Kong, was there one year riding and the ‘Magic Man’ is such a neat rider who was great to see up close.

It was an eye-opener to see how ‘long’ he rode, but he’s got great balance and it was brilliant to be able to ride alongside him.

Everyone has to quickly adapt to the local rules, though, so some of the more pronounced whip actions are likely to come under the spotlight a bit in years to come.

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Jockeys to be looking out for this weekend

Everyone will probably remember Christophe Lemaire extremely well from his association with Natagora and multiple Group One winner Almond Eye. However, since moving full time to Japan he's broken all records on his way to becoming multiple champion jockey and riding in excess of 200 winners a year including Japan Cups and some of the best races around.

He's a beautiful rider, he's very neat and horses settle for him extremely well. He's a joy to watch and looks a worthy captain of The Rest of the World team. He tends to excel at these meetings all around the world and wherever he goes he tends not to leave without a winner.

Takeshi Yokoyama is the son of multiple Japanese champion Norihiro Yokoyama, who is a legend in Japan and still riding over there. Takeshi has got his career off in good style and will be one of the most promising riders in Japan. He's definitely one to watch.

Emma-Jayne Wilson needs no introduction really, but it's great to see her back representing the Ladies team post-Covid. She also brings a lot to the event, she's very, very good in a finish and as strong as anyone out there.

It can't be easy for her at all to go from riding American-style tracks - which are all flat left-handed circuits - to riding Ascot but she adapts brilliantly.


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