Masters and apprentice: Big names hope Sherry will be toast of the town
After a successful season and weeks of planning, Team Sherry makes its city debut on the Kensington track at Randwick on Saturday.
While young Irishman Tom Sherry will be the name beside five rides at what has become his home track, he knows his quick rise has come as much because of his mentors.
“I didn’t come here to ride [in races] – I just wanted to ride trackwork – but then I saw an opportunity,” Sherry said. “When a chance to do an apprenticeship was there, I took it, but I didn’t really have high expectations.
“If I tell the truth, I didn’t think I would be in Sydney. I'm very lucky to have had great help.”
Sherry was signed up by Mark Newnham and was an immediate success in country races last year. His natural talent and claim found him regularly in the winner’s circle.
He then progressed to the provincial circuit where he has ridden 54 of his 93 winners and the calls grew for him to bring his three-kilogram claim to town.
That is where his inner circle stepped in.
Newnham and Sherry's manager, Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Wayne Harris, knew the development of the rider would be better if he learnt his craft away from one of the toughest riding markets in the world.
“We don’t just want to make a good jockey, we want him to be a good person,” Newnham said. “Of course riding winners is important, but it is what you learn about dealing with owners and trainers at these places that holds you in good stead.
“That is part of being in the country and provincial tracks; you are winning and learning on and off the track.”
Harris is not just a booking agent, he's a mentor. He goes through Sherry’s rides and has been part of his rise and improvement.
“In the start I didn’t have any idea of pace or about where I was in a race,” Sherry said. "Mark and Wayne would tell me what I was doing wrong."
Sherry learnt there was more to riding than being on the best horse.
“We talk after nearly every meeting,” Harris said. “You get confidence from winning, but it's those rides you don’t get right where you learn. If you don't learn you don't take the next step.
“We have been working to get him to a point where he doesn’t make mistakes because you can't in Sydney.”
Harris was a champion apprentice and won a Golden Slipper on Century Miss in 1979 during his junior days before riding in 10 countries and winning the Melbourne Cup on Jeune.
“What we have been trying to prepare him for is how tough Sydney will be,” Harris said. “I went through it in my day and can help him with some things but, in the end, it will be up to him to be good enough and tough enough."
Newnham had heard the growing calls for Sherry to come to Sydney for months, but for an apprentice who has not even been riding for a year, it was always going be on Newnham's terms, in consultation with Harris.
The pair have helped Robbie Dolan to the past two Sydney apprentice titles and didn’t want to waste wins for Sherry, because 2020-21 was clearly his time to challenge for the apprentice title.
“He is still learning and it is a big step up in Sydney,” Newnham said. "You can’t come here and make mistakes because you don’t get away with them against the likes of Bowman, McDonald, Nash [Rawiller] and Berry.
"I would have liked him to outride his provincial claim [Sherry has another 26 wins left to do that], but this is a good time for him to come now.
“We planned to have him here a couple of weeks out from the new season, to get a feel of it, and I wanted to have a horse for him to ride and maybe win on.”
That horse is Black Magnum, a noted first-up specialist and a speedster with wet-track form.
“He has won three from four first up and when he came back into the stable, I thought, 'This is the horse for Tom',” Newnham said. "Robbie won a couple on him and it helped him get going in town.
“We selected this race and it worked in well with [Sherry] getting a couple of weeks in town before the new season.
“The aim is for him to do something similar to Robbie and hopefully he can win an apprentice title.”
Sherry was on Black Magnum in his recent barrier trial and rode him in his work on Tuesday.
“He is a good one to have and to ride a winner for the boss would be a great way to start,” Sherry said. “I got on Black Magnum on Tuesday and he is ready to go. I also rode Home Ground for Sarge [John Sargent] and I think it might be a good ride as well.
“It is not going to be easy, but it is exciting to be coming to town."