‘Striker’ now tar­gets 5 000 SA win­ners

The Star Early Edition - - RACING - DAVID THISELTON

PIERE “Striker” Strydom re­gards rid­ing his 5 000th win­ner aboard the Joey Rams­den-trained Act Of War in the Gr2 Se­lan­gor Cup over 1 600m at Ke­nil­worth last Satur­day as his new ca­reer high­light.

How­ever, he now has a new 5 000 tar­get, that is to ride 5 000 win­ners in South Africa, be­cause his ca­reer tally in­cludes 72 over­seas win­ners.

He said: “I’ve been rid­ing for 33 years and have rid­den July and Met win­ners, but the cov­er­age, well wishes and re­cep­tion I re­ceived for the 5 000th has been un­be­liev­able. It means a lot be­cause when peo­ple wish me to do well it is not just for my­self. It was a great feel­ing when it hap­pened at last, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the count­down started about 100 win­ners ago. I have in­ter­views lined up not just with the rac­ing press but with the nor­mal press too, in­clud­ing Su­pers­port. I have al­ready been on Tel­ly­track and Gold Cir­cle have in­vited me to a spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion on De­cem­ber 6. Phumelela also want to do some­thing spe­cial. A lunch has also been or­gan­ised for me by all of my clos­est friends.

The meet­ing at Scottsville this Sun­day will be in Strydom’s hon­our. His first ever win­ner was at Scottsville over 1 600m in 1982 aboard the Johnny Nicholson-trained Saad­abad.

The scenes of adu­la­tion that hap­pened around the win­ner’s en­clo­sure last Satur­day had Strydom in tears and were equally mean­ing­ful to his fi­ancé, Clau­dia, who was there to support him.

How­ever, the best was still to come as his fa­ther “Hekkie” had snuck on to the course.

“When I was called I thought it must be somebody act­ing as if he was my fa­ther,” said Piere, who was gen­uinely sur­prised.

The mo­ment he saw his fa­ther was ob­vi­ously a deeply emo­tional mo­ment.

Strydom re­gards his fa­ther, who trained in Port El­iz­a­beth, as hav­ing had the big­gest in­flu­ence on his ca­reer.

He grew up in an era when there was al­ways a lot of pace and Hekkie, hav­ing taught him the im­por­tance of bal­ance from a young age, em­pha­sised the need to be pa­tient and get there as late as pos­si­ble.

Con­se­quently, Piere quickly gained a rep­u­ta­tion for his dra­matic fin­ishes from way off the pace and as a re­sult ac­quired the nick­name “Striker”, given to him by a Port El­iz­a­beth rac­ing jour­nal­ist who wrote un­der the name Rob Roy.

Strydom has also rid­den in Hong Kong, Aus­tralia, the UK, Mau­ri­tius, Dubai and Turkey and said re­cently: “Rid­ing over­seas is im­por­tant as one can oth­er­wise be­come one di­men­sional.”

Strydom said he would not like to make a call, hav­ing rid­den both, on which pro­tag­o­nist for lead­ing three-year-old male in the coun­try was bet­ter, Act Of War or the Paul Laf­ferty-trained Harry’s Son.

How­ever, he said: “In Cape Town I would choose Act Of War as he has the course ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Cape Guineas

The pair might clash for the first time in the Gr1 Grand Pa­rade Cape Guineas.

Strydom has al­ways been tar­geted for big race rides by big yards, but he put this down to his con­sis­tent suc­cess with small yards. How­ever, he ad­mit­ted the rea­son he was sel­dom re­tained by big yards th­ese days was due to his “lack of rid­ing work”. He out­lined his pro­fes­sional pol­icy. “I keep work rid­ing to a min­i­mum in or­der to pro­long my ca­reer. Hav­ing rid­den so much over the years, there is a lot of wear and tear. In fact, I have right now (Mon­day) just come back from the chi­ro­prac­tor. Jock­eys only ever get a break if we’ve bro­ken a bone or had a sus­pen­sion. We can’t just take off for leisure time as we have over­heads to pay. Apart from wear and tear, in­jury can also can hap­pen dur­ing workrid­ing (he once broke his wrist workrid­ing), but the in­come only comes at the races.”

Strydom will re­assess his ca­reer after reach­ing the 5 000 win­ners in South Africa mark, although he said re­cently: “To still be rid­ing at 50 is crazy, but some­times there is noth­ing else to do and you need to earn a liv­ing. There are a few op­tions I could go into, but not train­ing!”

Strydom never dreamt he would ever reach th­ese heights upon join­ing the South African Jock­eys Academy and said: “I hoped I would just do well and have al­ways set my­self re­al­is­tic goals. You are not go­ing to run the Com­rades be­fore you can walk. With each suc­cess I made my goals higher.”

He was first Port El­iz­a­beth Cham­pion ap­pren­tice, be­fore be­com­ing Na­tional cham­pion ap­pren­tice in his fi­nal year at the Academy and he has won six Na­tional Jockey's Cham­pi­onships. He has rid­den seven win­ners in a day twice.

His pop­u­lar­ity reached new heights at the now de­funct Gos­forth Park in Ger­mis­ton on July 14, 1990, when he be­came the first and only jockey to ever ride the Pick 6.

One of his big­gest fans, whom he knows only as “Phillip”, was present on that fa­mous day and has idolised Strydom ever since.

He flew es­pe­cially to Cape Town for Satur­day’s meet­ing so he could be present for the 5 000th win­ner.

Strydom re­gards the 1990s as hav­ing been the best era he has rid­den in due to great jock­eys like Michael Roberts, Jeff Lloyd, Felix Coet­zee, Basil Mar­cus, An­ton Mar­cus and We­i­chong Mar­wing still be­ing in the coun­try.

JJ The Jet Plane

He ranks JJ The Jet Plane as prob­a­bly the best horse he has ever rid­den and said: “He had tremen­dous gate speed and the ac­cel­er­a­tion when nec­es­sary.”

Strydom’s im­me­di­ate goal is to win the San­sui Sum­mer Cup on Satur­day and he ad­mit­ted to be­ing very im­pressed when first rid­ing his mount, the rul­ing favourite Louis The King, to third place in the Peer­mont Em­peror’s Palace Char­ity Mile.

He said: “It was es­pe­cially im­pres­sive after we were caught so far back. He has a big chance but there are two horses who are very well hand­i­capped, As You Like and Bouclette Top, who have huge weight turn­arounds in their favour.”

Will there ever be another Piere “Striker” Strydom?

There could be as he has two young sons, Oliver and Se­bas­tion.

He said he wouldn’t re­ally like them to be jock­eys, but added: “If they want to be I will give as much in­put as pos­si­ble.’’

PIC­TURE: LIESL KING

PIERE STRYDOM be­ing in­ter­viewed by Neil An­drews after rid­ing his 5 000th win­ner at Ke­nil­worth on Satur­day.

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