Piere “Striker” Strydom’s 5500th career winner happened exactly a year ago on this day November 24 at the Vaal Classic track aboard the Barend Botes and Yolandi Vosloo-trained Admiralty Arch (JC Photos)
Exactly a year ago today Piere Strydom rode his 5,500th winner and it had more significance at the time than just being a milestone achievement.
Piere ended a stint of close to 15 months on the sidelines by coming back on June 26 last year.
The eye condition that had kept him away had settled enough to allow him to ride, but there were still some concerns and he said his intention was to just ride eleven more winners to reach the career figure of 5,500 winners before hanging up his riding boots for good.
In typical style the legend’s first ride back was a winner as he got the Justin Snaith-trained six-year-old Nexus gelding up by 0,75 lengths to win the KZN Breeders Mile on the Hollywoodbets Greyville turf.
Thereafter it proved tough to get suitable rides.
The first double of his comeback was only in mid-October.
He finally reached the magical 5500 mark exactly a year ago at the Vaal Classic track on the Barend Botes and Yolandi Vosloo-trained Admiralty Arch (Admiral Kitten) in a 1200m handicap, converting 2/1 favouritism by a length.
However, at the time he had become associated with the Gareth van Zyl-trained Money Heist (Gimmethegreenlight).
He had partnered this promising three-year-old to a close second in a Graduation Plate over 1600m at Hollywoodbets Greyville and they followed that with a decent a 4.05 length fifth to Cousin Casey in the Gr 2 Cape Punters Cup over 1600m at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.
Piere had to stay on to complete the agreement that he would partner this horse in the Hollywoodbets Cape Guineas in mid-December.
He duly partnered him to a 6,90 length sixth in a vintage renewal of the prestigious race, which was won by 4,25 lengths by the superstar Charles Dickens.
Piere’s new retirement date was now going to be WSB Met day, as he was to ride the Ricky Maingard-trained Gr 1 L’Ormarins King’s Plate winner Al Muthana as well as the Justin Snaith-trained Itsrainingwilliam in the R7 million Gold Rush.
In the meantime an old friend of his Joe Soma phoned him and said, “Come and ride this filly (Lady Of Power) and some others before retiring and if it goes well you can carry on for a bit longer.”
Soma said at the time, “I am a small yard and top jockeys are usually affiliated to big yards, so sometimes I have been fired by them, although sometimes I fire jockeys. With Piere it is now about chapter 34! I think this is the final chapter and I hope it is a happy one.”
It was a happy one. Piere won on Master Of My Fate filly Lady Of Power on the week of the Met.
Met day was now no longer retirement day.
In the Met Al Muthana was unable to find a clear run in a messy race and finishing unplaced. Itsrainingwilliam had earlier finished a fine third in the Gold Rush.
A week later up on the Highveld Piere produced won of the all time masterful rides at Turffontein Standside to win the Gr 2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas on Lady Of Power.
One man who noticed the brilliance of that ride was the prolific Durban-based owner Nick Jonsson.
After discussions with trainer Michael Roberts, Piere was invited to partner the Twice Over colt See It Again in the Gr 1 Splash Out Cape Derby. The latter had run in the Gold Rush and had been adjudged by most to have run a creditable 3,20 length seventh.
Piere did not have any rides in the three weeks between the Gauteng Fillies Guineas win and Cape Derby day. Was this going to be the new retirement date?
See It Again was sent out at 50/1 odds in the Cape Derby but after being patiently waited with at the top of the straight he powered home to down Charles Dickens by a comfortable two lengths. Another master class from the sadddle.
A new superstar was born and any thought of retirement now went out the window.
Piere is of course still associated with the now twice Gr 1-winner See It Again and will be at least until this season’s WSB Met.
He has never embarked on any retirement tours, so will not feel obliged to stop at anytime and will likely do so when he feels the time is right.