Joe Soma is pleased to have been the one to have given the legendary jockey Piere Strydom a new lease on life and spoke of the masterful ride given to his filly Lady Of Power in the Grade 2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas at Turffontein Standside on Saturday.
He has no doubt the Master Of My Fate filly will stay the 1800m trip of the Grade 1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic.
He said, “We were worried the 1600m would be too short for her. Piere said she will be better over 1800m, although he will probably have to ride her a bit differently.”
Soma said over the mile the tactic beforehand had been to gallop the field into the ground.
Joe said, “I could not believe the other jockeys were allowing Piere Strydom a four or five length lead in a Group 2 race! There is no doubt that he allowed her a breather coming up the hill. This might be something the younger jockeys don’t know, how demanding the Turffontein Standside climb up to the straight is, and the going was on the soft side too (officially good to soft). You can see as he is coming into the straight off the false rail Piere momentarily looks around, because he is probably asking himself can this be happening? It was a masterful ride.”
Strydom got the filly to skip the moment she entered the straight and it soon became apparent that the rest of the field, including the hot favourite Gimme A Shot, had underestimated the pacemaker and were going to battle to catch her.
In the typical style of a great rider Strydom left just a little bit in reserve as he kept the filly rolling down the long 800m straight.
When the field reached his filly he was able to extract the necessary extra to get her up by a quarter of a length from the Stuart Pettigrew-trained Feather Boa with the Brett Crawford-trained outsider Reny next best from Emirate Gina and Gimme A Shot.
Soma was amazed to arrive at the yard the next morning to find Lady Of Power’s manger was clean … she had eaten every single scrap of food.
He said, “It is fascinating for a trainer to see this and I think that is the key to a great rider. I thought she might have had a hard race, but that she polished off her food was proof that the jockey had allowed her to breathe throughout the contest. I have found this with all of the great jockeys. Kevin Shea was another one. He was one of the most underrated jockeys of all time, up with the best ever, and a charateristic of the big race horses he rode was they came out of the race well. Jeff Lloyd was also world class. It was the same with others like Anton Marcus, Anthony Delpech, Weichong Marwing and Robbie Sham. Even S’Manga Khumalo. They say he is hard on a horse, but the horses he rides in big races come out of the race well. With these top riders you can phone the owner the next day and say ‘You still have a horse.’”
Soma spoke of how top jockeys and trainers of yesteryear are often forgotten and said he had recently found it sad to see a legend like Strydom not being given good rides.
He said, “He was supposed to retire on Met day and I would have liked to have seen him carry on riding, so I phoned him and said come and ride this filly and some others before retiring and if it goes well you can carry on for a bit longer. Gabby ((Soma) Joe’s nephew and an assistant and owner in his yard) agreed with me and I think it was a master stroke by us. Piere has so far ridden four for us this season and has three wins and a second. I have known him for about 35 years, since the days I was assistant to Mike Azzie. We have always got on well, we joke and laugh a lot, and we joked this was chapter 34 in our partnership. I have always been hard on jockeys, because whilst I do praise them for good rides I always feel it is right to tell them when they have not ridden to their best or have ridden a bad race. They sometimes get upset by the criticism. I am a small yard and they 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.”
Joe only has 30 horses and has never had much more than that, so has an incredible record, having won what he believes to be about 11 or 12 Grade 1s.
He sent out five runners on Saturday, which is about 17% of his yard, and returned with three wins, a second and a sixth.
The 6th place was by Rule By Force (Pomodoro) in the Grade 2 WSB Gauteng Guineas. He said from a tricky draw he had come from too far back, so had run a fine race and he believed he would prefer the 1800m of the Grade 1 WSB SA Classic.
He said a horse to follow was his winner of the second race, William Longsword three-year-old colt Back In Business, who was slowly away and then made up two or three lengths in the final furlong. That was a fine feat for one making his debut and this big, rangy sort looks the part.
He pointed out the yard could have had four wins had it not been for the 1,5kg claim of Rachel Venniker in the last race, whose mount Gimmealight pipped his filly In The Beginning (Captain Of All).
He said Rachel had probably even asked herself, “Why are the doing this to me?”
After all, she had earlier got up without the claim in a ding dong tussle with S’Manga Khumalo in the WSB Gauteng Guineas.
Joe said it was not a question of who was right or who was wrong, but he believed a debate about the female claim should be opened between the NHA and industry players.
Joe said his small numbers were probably due to him never having being been one to “blow smoke up people’s backsides” and admitted he never actively asked owners to join his yard.
He explained, “It was always my dream to be around horses and train horses, so when I get up in the morning I am happy with the hand I have been dealt and I do my best for all the horses we have. I would welcome new owners, but it doesn’t worry me because I haven’t got the time to fight with owners or speak on the phone for hours. We also have a very happy vibe in the yard, the grooms are like my family, and I wouldn’t want to disrupt that. If you ask an owner for a horse it is up to you, it’s added pressure, but If an owner gives you a horse you can do the best for the horse itself. I have always been true to myself at the sales, I can buy any horse I want to from any stud. I love going to the sale to buy the horses I believe are champs and I don’t need to please anybody else.”
Joe can’t buy at the top end of the market, but said he had nevertheless been blessed to have a good horse in his yard every year he had trained.
Lady Of Power was a good example of a good buy. He had viewed this now big and powerful filly, who stands at 16-and-a-half hands and weights 490kg, as beautifully balanced at the sale and liked what she “appeared to possess.”
He landed her for R175,000 (at the BSA National Yearling Sale).
Joe has a share in about 75% of the horses in his yard and has advised Gabby to do the same in his role as a bloodstock agent.
He said, “I buy on spec and put the partnership together, but if you also take a share the patron knows then you are also prepared to put your money down and take a chance with the horse.”