It was Nathan Berry’s favourite day on the racing calendar, and the talented jockey should have been there.
He should have been in the $3.5 million Golden Slipper aboard Unencumbered, the colt on which he won the $2 million Magic Millions in January, the biggest victory of his cut-short career.
And at 23, Berry should have been there for many more years to come.
He wasn’t, and that fact was palpable among all at Rosehill racecourse on Saturday when the late jockey was honoured in an emotional ceremony following the renamed Group Two Nathan Berry Tulloch Stakes.
Berry’s identical twin Tommy, his new father-in-law Glyn Schofield, brother-in-law Chad Schofield, and good mate Christian Reith all rode in the race.
Tommy wore his brother’s racing breeches emblazoned with the initials NJB, while Reith, who came third on Best Case, had “Nath” printed onto his.
Instead of traditional black armbands, the jockeys wore blue ribbons, Berry’s favourite colour.
All rode to honour their colleague and friend, who on Thursday died after a two-week battle with the rare NORSE syndrome, a condition related to severe epilepsy.
Berry collapsed after trackwork in Singapore, where he had just begun a short-term contract, and was flown back to Sydney on Thursday afternoon.
When Berry’s young wife Whitney arrived to present the trophy to winning trainer Peter Snowden, the events of the past 48 hours were still visibly raw.
The couple were only married in early February.
She was joined by Tommy Berry and the twins’ parents Kevin and Julie, Tommy’s fiancee Sharnee Nisbet and other loved ones including Glyn and Tiffany Schofield.
During a one minute’s silence requested by Tommy, the grief and sorrow was overwhelming for many.
The group, all wearing blue, huddled by the track, some sobbing, others only just holding it together.
And in those moments the racing industry, so often divided, was well and truly a family.
The video montage that followed silenced the thousands of racegoers in the stands for its duration, then drew applause.
It included footage of the young jockey winning the Magic Millions, and of his wedding to Whitney.
“She’s definitely the one person in my life other than my family who drives a lot of confidence into me, and makes me feel like anything is possible,” Berry said in the clip as his wife watched.
Peter Snowden, whose gelding Gallatin won the race with jockey Nash Rawiller aboard, said he was still struggling to come to terms with Berry’s sudden death.
The Darley trainer has known the twins for years, working at Warwick Farm where their father Kevin also trains.
“To win this race in Nathan’s honour, it’s still pretty raw at the moment,” Snowden said.
“I’ve known them pretty much since they were born. When they were four or five they started riding ponies and they feel like part of your own.
“It’s a hell of a loss for all of us really.”