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Fran Berry double helps secure Shergar Cup for Britain and Ireland | Sport


Fran Berry scored a timely double at the Shergar Cup, helping his Britain and Ireland team to victory and reminding everyone of his skills only a couple of months after his split from the trainer Ralph Beckett. It is the 36-year-old’s second success in the Silver Saddle for top jockey at this international competition, putting him alongside Richard Hughes and Gérald Mossé as the only riders to have done it more than once.

In his quiet way, Berry pointed out his was only the third time he had taken part in a Shergar Cup. It is a novelty event rather than a precise measure of riding ability but Berry’s achievement is noteworthy just the same and he is surely right to hope, now that he has decided to remain in Britain as a freelancer, that this will have attracted the notice of potential employers.

The job with Beckett was a big one, offering the chance to ride classy animals in Group races, so Berry must feel its loss, especially after only 18 months in the role.

But it lasted long enough for him to make connections in Britain and he has now ridden winners for 20 different trainers this year.

“Fantastic day,” the Irishman said. “I didn’t realise we’d won the competition until after the line. Great to get the call-up, very thankful to get the call-up and even better to ride a couple of winners.

“It’s a big day, you see the crowd here today and you get a kick out of it. You put your head down and work hard through the week but there’s something about riding nice winners on Saturdays. It was such a tight competition going into the last, any one of three teams could have won it and to be in front and hold on was great.”

While he acknowledged an element of luck in being drawn on horses that can win, Berry said coming out on top was “a feather in my cap”. “They might have me back next year!” he added.

It remains to be seen whether Michelle Payne will be asked back next year. The Australian was to have been the star of this show but dropped out early on Saturdaymorning, saying she was still suffering from a virus, the effects of which she began to feel soon after her arrival on Wednesday.

“I find I am unable to ride in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup competition today,” Payne was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the racecourse, which made her sound as stiffly spoken as the lady who owns Ascot.

The news came as no great surprise, Payne having left early from a media event on Thursday, complaining of illness.

A mischievous few have decided to hold Payne’s withdrawal against her. They may possibly include ITV’s Matt Chapman, who, acting as Ascot’s MC, introduced her replacement, Hollie Doyle, to the crowd with the words: “This girl is no diva!”

But Payne came across well during the hours she spent with the media on Thursday and Ascot officials report that she was genuinely and obviously “gutted” about having to stay in her hotel. She has been told her virus will take five to seven days to shake off, which may yet allow her to ride Kaspersky, who she was aboard in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, again at Newbury next Saturday.

Briefly during the first race, Payne must have imagined she had missed a winner, as Doyle surged to the front on the 10-1 shot Sir Robert Cheval. But he was collared close home by Jamie Spencer on Stake Acclaim and the day got no better for the Girls Team, who finished tailed off last behind the other three teams.

Hayley Turner, the leading points earner among all jockeys at the Shergar Cup, added just three to her career tally and finished last of the dozen jockeys here.

The ride of the day went to Holland’s Adrie De Vries for his last-to-first effort on Euchen Glen, though in truth it was a good day for hold-up tactics, recent rain having made this track more testing than usual.

“It’s one of those instructions: ‘Drop in last,’ that’s quite easy to translate,” said the Glasgow-based trainer, Jim Goldie. “I said to Adrie: ‘You’re either going to be clever or a villain.’ He appeared very clever. It’s a long way to Scotland down here but some of the jockeys come a lot further.”



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