IF you gave Jack Berry a spade and a pile of bricks, he would probably try to build it himself. Work has finally begun on constructing the Injured Jockeys’ Rehabilitation Centre in Malton – and the man whose name it will bear can hardly contain his excitement.
The much-needed answer to Lambourn’s Oaksey House, Jack Berry House – as it will be known – has been the obsession of the former trainer for the best part of a decade.
His desire to see the project finalised before he was “carted off in a box” has driven the 76-year-old to huge fundraising efforts.
Now it’s almost here.
The centre has started to become a reality with Huddersfield-based building team Illingworth and Gregory having moved on to the site.
Occupying two acres next to Malton & Norton Rugby Union Club, it will be a single-storey building, including a gym, hydrotherapy pool, treatment and fitness rooms and respite accommodation.
Fittingly, it is expected to be finished before the end of the year – coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, an organisation Berry helped form with Lord Oaksey.
“They reckon it’ll take 11 months, so it should all be finished this year, which would be great,” said Berry. “It’s taken three years to get to this point and I am so excited I can hardly sleep at night.
“I was there last Friday with my shovel to start digging the footings to kick it all off and I was thrilled to be doing it – it was like riding my first winner all over again.”
Oaksey House, which has been an unrivalled success, opened in Lambourn nearly five years ago and Berry believes that Jack Berry House will complement the Berkshire facility by filling a much-needed gap in North Yorkshire.
“It’s badly needed up here,” he stressed. “Oaksey House is great, brilliant, but it’s a long journey for the northern jockeys to get down there and back, and now they’ll have their own facility.
“It’ll be a huge boost for the north and is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Berry understands perfectly the need for such a centre. In a 12 year career in the saddle he had only one more winner, 47, than he had broken bones.
But although it is go close to fruition, funding is still required. Through books, the legends race at Doncaster and dozens more schemes, more than £2 million has been raised.
More is still required.
“There’s been just over £2 million raised already, which is pretty good considering there isn’t a brick laid yet,” Berry said. “To complete it, and with running costs, we are looking at £3.5 million, but there’s a lot of goodwill out there, a lot of support. It will happen, believe me.
“Everyone knows my lifelong passion for the work of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and this project in particular, and it is very fitting we hope to build the entire centre this year, our 50th anniversary year.”
It has been a long road for Berry, and the IJF are pushing hard to raise the remaining funds.
The body will ask every racecourse in the country to hold an Injured Jockeys’ Fund race day to help them push through the final figure.
Lisa Hancock, the IJF’s chief executive, said: “We are thrilled that work is starting on Jack Berry House.
“The support we have received for the project has been staggering and we have ring-fenced £2 million already.
“We are hoping the remaining money required will come from fundraising over the next ten months or so before we open the doors next winter.”