‘Striker’ now targets 5 000 SA winners
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.”
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.’’
PIERE STRYDOM being interviewed by Neil Andrews after riding his 5 000th winner at Kenilworth on Saturday.