Claude Berry, breeder of three-time Group 1 winner Old Country (GB) (Quiet Fling), passed away at his home in Devon on Tuesday night, aged 80.
Berry was a successful amateur rider in the 1950s and ’60s and trained a small string of jumpers under permit for himself and his first wife Caroline when living in the Scottish Borders. They subsequently started breeding horses, establishing Firth Stud at their farm.
Easily the best horse whom he bred was Old Country, whose victory in G1 Derby Italiano in 1982 made him not only a rare Scottish-bred Classic winner but also the first Group 1 winner trained by Luca Cumani. Old Country (whom Berry bred from the Aggressor mare Little Miss (GB) whom he had bought, in foal to Balliol (GB), for 2,000 guineas at Tattersalls’ December Sale in 1974) subsequently added to his haul by taking the G1 Prix Royal-Oak in 1983 and the G1 Premio Roma in 1985 as well as the G3 Jockey Club Cup in 1984. During this period, Berry served as the Scottish small breeders’ representative on the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.
While living in Scotland, Berry served as a steward at Kelso, Carlisle and Hamilton. Subsequently returning to his native Devon, he was more recently a steward at Exeter and Taunton until compulsorily stepping down from that role when he reached 70 in 2008. Over the years he owned or part-owned several horses in training with Nigel Angus, Peter Bailey and Philip Hobbs as well as his younger son John, the Newmarket-based trainer and TDN columnist.
Berry spent the final couple of decades of his working life at the Tryon Gallery in London, of which he became a director. He wrote one book while working there, ‘The Racehorse in Twentieth Century Art‘ and subsequently wrote ‘Racing at the Top‘, a history of Exeter racecourse.
Berry remained in relatively good health right up to his death, and enjoyed an afternoon at Taunton races only last week. He is survived by his two sons, John and his elder brother Dominic, a lecturer in Classics at Edinburgh University, and one grandson, Anthony.