Piere Strydom has been given the ride on former Justin Snaith-trained Durban July winner Belgarion for this year’s renewal of the big race, which now has a R5 million stake and is sponsored by Hollywoodbets.
Strydom has been sidelined since April last year with a semi-detached retina issue.
However, he was given the all clear to ride again by the opthalmologist at his last ckeckup.
He was phoned by Jonathan Snaith late last week.
He said, “Jonathan asked me about my current weight and condition and after listening was happy to give me the ride on Belgarion.”
He admitted it was an exciting moment and added, “My wife said she had not seen me smile like that in a long time.”
He was due to have gone to track this morning to ride work.
He is hoping to get rides at Sunday’s Highveld meeting from long-time friend Sean Tarry.
He rode Tarry’s first July winner Pomodoro (Jet Master) (see picture).
Strydom has set himself two more goals in a career which has seen him for a long time been regarded as one of SA greatest ever jockeys.
The first it to ride in one more July to try and equal the record of five wins in the big race held by Anton Marcus.
The second is to ride the eleven more winners he needs to reach the career 5500 mark.
He said completing the 5500 goal had always been dependent on him getting a July ride.
He recalled Anton Marcus riding alongside him on the way back to the winner’s enclosure after the running of the 2018 July, where Marcus scored his fifth July win on Do It Again, and quipping, “How many July’s have you won, Piere?”
It was good-natured banter but Strydom would like to have a counter chirp, even it comes five years later!
He hoped Belgarion would be able to bounce back to his best. The six-year-old Dynasty gelding picked up an injury in last year’s July but in his second run after a ten month layoff on Sunday the 5th of this month at Kenilworth Winter Course he put in a sterling effort to be beaten just a short-head in a Pinnacle Stakes race over 1500m.
He was giving the winner Rockin’ Ringo 6kg.
Admittedly the latter is merit rated only 99 but Belgarion should have come on plenty for the run.
Belgarion was also given a two point merit rating drop to 128 after the race, so will carry 59.5kg in the July.
Strydom said he currently weighted 60kg and is aiming to lose 3kg in the short term to get to 57kg but he said his long term aim was to lose more weight than that.
Picture: Piere Strydom winning the July on Pomodoro in 2012 (Sporting Post).