While the rest of racing Australia looked on at Chautauqua’s most recent barrier trial failure with great frustration, I was getting goose bumps.

That’s the great irony of racing. There’s always several interpretations to the same picture.

Yes, for the sixth time in a row the ‘Grey Flash’ just refused to jump. Now, for most that’s where the story ended. But not for me.

When eventually I coaxed him out of the barriers, with the rest of the runners well ahead in the distance, I could have just turned him around and brought him out the back.

But the wider public needed to know that this horse still loves to gallop. So, I let him go. I gave him a ‘click’ up the straight … and away he went.

The acceleration gave me goose bumps and that rarely happens to me these days.

I remember thinking: “I may not feel this again for a while”. Because there aren’t many horses like him, an incredible athlete.

That performance convinced me that Chautauqua is still in good order, galloping as good as he ever has and still loves being on the track.

HONG KONG - MAY 01: Tommy Berry riding Chautauqua after winning The Chairman's Sprint Prize race at Sha Tin Racecourse on May 1, 2016 in, Hong Ko (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
HONG KONG – MAY 01: Tommy Berry riding Chautauqua after winning The Chairman’s Sprint Prize race at Sha Tin Racecourse on May 1, 2016 in, Hong Ko (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)

So why doesn’t he jump? I think that is just his quirky nature. That is his make-up. That same quirky nature is the reason he has been a champion sprinter for five years and has won six Group One races and $8.8million. His quirkiness was working for us all back then. Now it is working against us.

It is frustrating. Especially for the Hawkes’ stable, who are good people and only have the horse’s best interests at heart. And any suggestion that they are being cruel for continuing to barrier trial Chautauqua is just ridiculous. I know the horse still loves to race.

I will be disappointed if Chautauqua never races again, but mainly for the horse.

He deserves to be remembered for his incredible highlights and not as the horse that refused to jump.

I know he has given me some of the most amazing moments of my race career.

Just that feeling, as we would get to the furlong and I would swap the stick from my left to right hand and instinctively he would know that’s his cue and he would take off.

It felt like being in a race car, because as he accelerated and reeled in the field, you knew he still had a couple of gears to go. Just incredible!

The latest Chautauqua barrier dilemmas have coincided with my return to Australia after 12 months in Hong Kong. Again, a couple of versions to this racing picture.

Tommy Berry exclusive insight

The first half of the Hong Kong stint was disappointing. I had gone over as the stable rider for John Moore, someone who I have had a lot of luck with in the past.

However, his strong team did not live up to expectations and it was a very slow start. It got to the point where the owners weren’t happy and John and I decided it would be best if I continued on as a freelance club jockey. But of course by this time, most of the top rides at the other stables were already taken.

It was tough going and entirely new territory for me. In my 10-11 years of racing I had never hit a ‘soft patch’. My riding career has never had any major hiccups. I made it through to the elite level relatively early and have been able to stay there. So, this was all new to me and was a real eye opener.

It was a massive learning curve, on and off the track. It is easy to be happy around the wife and kids when you are riding plenty of winners. But it is harder when things aren’t going well and you feel like you are letting your family down.

However a good family is always right behind you in the good and bad times and that was certainly the case with my wife Sharnee in Hong Kong.

Tommy Berry exclusive insight

Then, over the last few months I was in Hong Kong the wheel turned. I got on a roll, rode a Group One winner – the sensational Pakistan Star – and really got a lot of confidence back for my return to Australia.

I really did not know what to expect when I came back to Australia. I have had stints away before, but they were for just three months.

The riding ranks in Sydney are very strong … so there was a little bit of a concern over how many rides I might get initially when I returned. But it has been very positive. Within a couple of weeks I have ridden for Chris Waller, the Hawkes, Godolphin and Gai (Waterhouse). So that’s the four top stables straight away.

Tommy Berry exclusive insight

The biggest plus in being back is seeing how happy the family is. I have three children under three and a half years old – Kaiden (three and a half), Charlise (one and a half) and Levi (4 months).

Having children has certainly given me a new perspective on life. They allow me to get away from racing. Before they came along racing was my whole life – basically 24/7. It consumed every part of my life.

Having a family has not only allowed me to have another life outside of racing but also taught me that you do need an outlet. Yes, I love racing. It is a real passion for me. But you still need to get away from it or it will consume you. And that can be to your detriment.

You need time to relax, to switch off, so that when the big racing occasion does come around you feel fresh, not exhausted or overwhelmed.

With all of this my wife Sharnee plays a major role. We have been together for 10 years and we both know each other very well. She wanted a family while we were young. I explained that I had to concentrate on my career for several years, which would mean that I could not be a complete hands-on Dad.

Sharnee totally understood what that meant – time away, even overseas – but she said that would be OK. She would be able to handle that. And she has. She is a fantastic Mum and I love being a Dad and do as much as I can … even though often that is not a hell of a lot.

Sharnee is more than a great Mum, she is my rock. Through the tough times and good times she keeps life balanced.

Tommy Berry exclusive insight

She knows that I can work too hard. If there were 8 days in a week, that’s how many I would work. But Sharnee knows when I need a break and makes sure I have a break.

Whether I am riding a hundred winners, or struggling like I was in Hong Kong, she doesn’t change. She just wants time with me. If I am moping around too much she won’t feel sorry for me. She knows me.

We found out a lot about each other when my twin brother Nathan passed away in 2014. I saw how she was with my family and really helped us through that … we will never go though a tougher time.

We will never feel pain like that again. I really saw who Sharnee was. So when hiccups like Hong Kong come along, we both know that compared to what else life can throw at you, the past 12 months have been a breeze.

Nathan still plays a major role in my life, every day. I ride because I enjoy riding, but it is also when I feel closest to my brother. Riding is something we both grew up loving.

Most of our life was on horseback. So, when I am riding I feel as though we are together and he is riding with me. When I make decisions I sit back and think about what he would have done or said.

He never changed. So, I still look to him for a lot of things and he is still very much in my life.

I would never pressure any of my children to be a part of the racing industry (despite what my wife says LOL). However, I also have to admit I wouldn’t be disappointed if they went in that direction.

Tommy Berry exclusive insight

Racing has given me so many great opportunities and I am blessed with the lifestyle that I now have. I look around at my family, my five-acre property, what I do for a living, my other interests and so of course I would encourage any of my children to be a part of what is an incredible industry.

I also am genuinely appreciative of the opportunities that have come my way via racing in general, specifically Racing NSW, owners and trainers.

Not all jockeys get the same opportunities that have come my way. Again, I feel blessed.

It truly is a great life.