A racing industry so often divided by opinion has united in its grief over the death of young jockey Nathan Berry.
The 23-year-old died in a Sydney hospital on Thursday afternoon, just hours after his family brought him home from Singapore where he had been seriously ill for more than two weeks.
Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys said the racing industry was struggling to comprehend Berry’s death.
“Sadness is not a sufficient word to describe this tragedy. We are all very distressed and could not imagine the grief the family must be going through,” V’landys said in a statement made at the request of the Berry and Schofield families.
“This was a young man that had the world at his feet. He won the Magic Millions in January and rose to the top of the ranks so quickly that he was offered a contract to ride in Singapore.
“You would not meet a family more grounded and genuine than the Berry family. They are the most diligent and hard-working people I know.
“Our sincere condolences go out to the Berry and Schofield families and Nathan’s wife Whitney.”
His family, including Whitney and his twin brother and leading Sydney jockey Tommy, decided to bring him home from Singapore on a special medical flight which arrived on Thursday morning.
Nathan’s biggest win came in the Magic Millions aboard Unencumbered in January but his most significant milestone was a month later when he married long-time girlfriend Whitney Schofield, daughter of top jockey Glyn.
Late on Thursday, Glyn Schofield posted a wedding photograph on twitter of his daughter and son-in-law with the message: “The man we love so much and will miss even more. Losing you cuts so deep buddy. R.I.P.”
Australian Racing Board chairman John Messara described Berry as a wonderful rider and person.
“Nathan Berry was a respected and talented rider who had earned his success through dedication and hard work,” Messara said.
“Nathan was a decent and principled young man respected by all.”
Berry was on a four-month riding contract in Singapore when he collapsed at Kranji racetrack on March 18.
He was last week diagnosed with NORSE syndrome, an acute form of epilepsy, and placed in an induced coma.
His fellow jockeys were among those to use twitter to express their sadness.
Three-time Melbourne Cup winner Glen Boss said: “I feel very numb with the passing of Nathan. RIP. Tommy your family and the Schofield’s. I’m so sorry for your loss”.
Kerrin McEvoy, stable rider for Darley, described Nathan as a “ripping young guy….we will all miss you mate”.
Apprentice Shaun Guymer was a close friend of Nathan and said he planned to ride at Flemington on Saturday because it’s what Nathan would have wanted.
“He would kick you in the arse and tell you to get going and keep pushing forward so you’ve got to do it,” Guymer told AAP.
In an industry in which jockeys risk their lives every time they ride, the unexpected loss of Nathan to a rare syndrome has been difficult to comprehend.
Hawkes Racing perhaps best summed up the collective emotion with its tweet on Thursday:
“Sadness fills our hearts with the passing of Nathan A talented and wonderful young man in his prime Our thoughts are with all his family RIP”.