So much more than a talented young jockey. Why the loss of Nathan Berry hurts so much.

April 5, 2014

He celebrated the way you want them to. Showing that victory meant something.

Nathan Berry has just won the Magic Millions. Easily. The young bloke had been up against some of the nation’s best hoops. And left them in his wake.

He waved his arms, and gave a yelp. Showed off that million dollar smile. Somewhere between rock star and choir boy.

The Gold Coast faithful lapped it up. It wouldn’t have surprised if he’d just stepped from the Broadbeach surf. He could have been their poster boy.

Confidence without arrogance. A young man sports administrators dream of.

He fulfilled every commitment asked of him that day. Every interview. All with that cheeky grin.

How painful it is, that we won’t get to see it again. We lost Nathan this week. Not from a fall. But from a rare illness, that most of us still don’t understand.

When he become crook in Singapore a few weeks back, it gained little attention here. Some thought it was from wasting, the curse of all jockeys.

But it was so much more. Something so insidious and invasive, Nathan stood no chance.

In the days before his death, the support through racing circles was overwhelming. Social media came to the fore. He must have felt it, surely, in that hospital bed so far away.

Racing folk are rare beasts. They are quite capable of tearing each other limb from limb, over the merits of a change in riding tactics. But when trouble strikes, they unite. And when a family is hurting like Nathan’s is right now, they reach rare levels.

Tributes on Facebook and Twitter have been overwhelming. Such a genuine outpouring of love, and respect, and sorrow.

Jockeys, trainers, punters, journos. Millionaire owners, and one dollar punters. As one, they’ve sent a message to Nathan’s loved ones. You are not alone.

We want his twin brother Tommy to know that we are trying to share his pain. Of course, we can do little to ease what must be unbearable heartache. Two young men with the world before them. Now there’s just one.

I never met Nathan. But I feel like we were mates. Just like the rest of his followers on social media. We saw pictures of his victories. Laughed at fun the boys would have, on their rare nights out.

We shared his wedding day, from our phones and I-pads. Saw the love between two special young people. Just a few months ago.

Some things don’t make sense. A young man who you would be proud to have as your son. From a family that base everything they do, on love and respect.

It’s Golden Slipper day, and we’ll have a punt, because that’s what we do. Tommy still wants to take his ride in the great race. Could you do it? Such courage. Because Nathan should have been there too. Riding Unencumbered. The horse that he danced on after that Magic Millions win.

Even if Tommy’s mount Valentia gets up for Gai, there’ll be no real celebrations. Just sadness. On so many levels.

Keep the tributes coming. Remember Nathan in your own way. For me, it’s the happiest ever winner of one of my favourite races. Which I’ll never be able to watch the same way again.