Piere Strydom must rate as one of the top jockeys in SA and, probably, as one of the top ever to have ridden in this country. Piere has a clear analytical mind and he normally sums up a race very clearly and not always in favour of his own mount. Those who follow him closely are sure to get a lot of fun from racing and probably make a profit. Fortunately Piere loves SA and there is not much chance of him ever leaving our shores on a permanent basis. There is no doubt that he is one of the best tacticians in the game and he is a joy to watch.”Poetry in motion” is how he has often been described. Thank you Piere for some very memorable moments.
What is your name and age? Piere Johan Strydom, 45.
What is your star sign and birthdate? 7 June 1966 – I’m a Gemini.
Where do you live? Alberton.
Where was your birthplace? Port Elizabeth.
What is your favourite food? Curry.
What is your favourite sport? To watch – Rugby & cricket, to play – golf.
What is your favourite soccer team? Liverpool.
You come from a well-known racing family. Tell us about how you, your brother and father are involved in racing? My father started off as a jockey in PE, but due to weight problems became a trainer instead. My brother followed in the training aspect and has his own stable in PE as well. I never wanted to be a jockey, I was doing well academically with hopes to be a doctor, but my dad felt that my analytical mind could be advantageous to a career as a jockey.
Who were your fellow apprentices when you went into the academy and are you still friends with most of them? Glen Hatt, Robbie Fradd,Nicholas Shearer, Eric Chelin,Hemant Ramlugaan. We all get on well, but only see each other on the racecourse.
As an apprentice how much did you earn when you won a race? No idea, money didn’t concern me. My goal was to ride as many winners as possible and, in turn, I would hopefully earn a comfortable living.
You have had a long association with Louis Goosen and you still ride for him today. Would you say that he has had the biggest influence on you in your career thus far? He played a major role in my move from PE to Joburg in the late 80’s. I still rate him as one of my best friends.
Generally speaking you don’t seem to want to be a stable jockey but would rather freelance. Is this true or do you think you can ride more winners as a freelance? I enjoy freelancing but would definitely like to be associated with a big yard as they generally have the sort of quality horse that wins the big races. If you get on these horses early in their careers, through the minor races, it makes your job as a jockey much easier.
It is noticeable that since your return to SA that you have been taking rides from as many trainers as possible. Are you by any chance thinking of chasing the SA jockey’s championship? I have always tried to be as competitive as possible, but not riding for a big stable will affect me later in the season. Niggling injuries are also preventing me from riding the amount of meetings it would take to win a championship.
For a long time now you have been saying that a real incentive should be offered for jockeys to chase the title. Do you think the R250 000 now on offer is a big enough incentive for you, and other jockeys, to make a serious effort to chase the title from day one? It’s a great incentive, but if you run second you have spent an equal amount of money as the winner gets. You will have spent a fortune travelling only to walk away with nothing. So one actually has to commit to the challenge with glory and not money in mind. A huge thumbs up to Klawervlei for their tremendous contribution!
As one of the most experienced jockeys in SA what would you say are the main differences between riding on sand and riding on turf? The sand is biased towards the front runners as it is difficult to make up ground when the consistency is like sea sand. Also too many horses stumble when you try to get a good jump. Unfortunately I rate the Vaal sand as one of the worst tracks to ride on but I do have success on it. Turf tracks seems to be more fair and I think that Turffontein is a super track to ride on.
What would you tell any young apprentice riding on sand for the first time to watch out for? Me!!… ) oh and the kick back.
You ride JET JAMBOREE in the upcoming Sansui Summer Cup at Turffontein. What are your chances in the race? This is a very open contest and he has as much chance as any in the field. He is a top horse that is by no means too highly rated. He should enjoy this testing track and he should have no problems with the ten furlongs.
In the past you stated that Goldmark was the best horse you ever rode. Is this still true or would you rate JJ The Jet Plane in the same class? I would rate JJ better than Goldmark, but don’t forget I have also ridden greats like Jet Master who sadly passed away this week and will be sorely missed by all in the racing game. My condolences go out to Pat and Henry Devine for their sad loss.
Tell us how the race panned out from your position in the saddle? Our luck started with a good draw. The start was not the greatest but he soon recovered to get a position close to Rocket Man. We started putting pressure on Felix Coetzee early up the straight, which forced him to make a move on Rocket Man. At that stage I could determine how much we had left in the tank and knowing Felix had made his move I realised it was going to be close but I could get there. The finish ended up being a lot closer than I had hoped for, proving the class of both horses.
You have recently been riding in Hong Kong. How did you enjoy the experience and were you disappointed with the quality of horse you were given to ride? Initially I enjoyed the experience as we spent a lot of time exploring Hong Kong and eating weird and wonderful things, but the horses I was given, and the struggle to ride winners, ended up putting tremendous pressure on me. In the 5 months I was in Hong Kong I never rode one favourite!
How many winners did you ride in Hong Kong and which was the best horse you won on? 6 including JJ. The best horse apart from JJ, was a horse called Redoutes Fortune which won the St.Georges Challenge Cup for me.
How difficult is it to make it big in Hong Kong or does it just depend on the stable you ride for? It is very difficult as a new jockey because trainers have formed solid relationships with their jocks. It would take a couple of seasons or some luck to really break through the ranks.
Did you manage to settle into the lifestyle in Hong Kong or did you find it unsettling? You do settle into a lifestyle, but it gets monotonous. We have a better quality of life and we as South Africans should be grateful for the variety of entertainment and landscape we have available.
Is there any chance that you will, in the near future, be returning to Hong Kong? If I get the right offer, as the financial rewards can’t compare.
How interested are you into what the trainers do in the stable? I’m a generally inquisitive person (my girlfriend calls it nosy) but I try to stick to what I know best.
If, for any reason you had to stop riding would you think about being a trainer?
No, trainers need to know all aspects of a horse’s training, care and wellbeing (feed, physical training, veterinary, admin, picking horses at sales, marketing…) I don’t know if I could get all of that right.
How easy is it for you to maintain your riding mass? I’m normally quite stable but a light ride would mean a period of dieting.
Many jockeys who have ridden against you say that it seems as though you always have something in reserve on the horses you ride. Is this something that you purposely do? Yes. Timing and pace play a big part.
Being a jockey is no ordinary job and can be very tough. What motivates you to keep going even though you have aches and pains especially with your knees? I don’t settle for mediocrity and have a drive to be competitive.
What is your favourite aspect of riding? Knowing I’ve won a race sometimes out of skill and not necessarily a horse’s ability.
What is the thing about being a jockey that you like least? People expecting all my rides to win, when they clearly haven’t looked at the form and then blaming me for losing money. Bookmakers start horses off at a short price giving owners and trainers false expectations and therefore costing me rides in the future.
The highs of the game are fantastic but how do you cope with the lows? As a youngster I took every beating personally. With experience, and knowing my ability, I assess the situation with an open mind, deal with it and move on.
Do you tell your friends to have a good bet on a horse you are riding when you feel you have a really big chance? I freely offer up information to friends and punters (not always very good) as I feel it necessary to encourage people to bet, it keeps the game going.
What has been the most exciting and satisfactory day you have had as a jockey thus far? JJ The Jet Plane’s success, winning the July and when I rode the pick six were great days. JJ’s win in Hong Kong was the cherry on top.
Which stallion’s progeny really excite you and which you would like to ride more often? I like Jet Master and Silvano. Jet Master was very tall and athletic.
Which horse, Igugu aside, do you rate as the best horse running in South Africa right now? Pierre Jourdan.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing thus far what would you say that is? You are only as good as the horse under you.
If pressed to advise anyone how they should bet in order to make money punting what would you say? Play the exotics for a small outlay.
How much time do you spend studying form? I spend as much time as possible, I watch ALL replays and study race cards, before and after a race.
The control of racing is now very strict. Is there anything more, in your opinion, that you think the authorities could or should do to make racing even straighter? We are well policed. If we step out of line we pay the penalty. Our chief stipe, Mr. Durant runs a tight ship, but is a very fair man.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? You can always learn from the good as well as the bad.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? There is not one secret to success, just do all the small things a bit better than the rest.
Did you enjoy the recent International Jockeys Challenge? I loved it. It was a true pleasure racing against those top jockeys and although we were all trying our best to win, we were doing it in a good spirit. The camaraderie between us was great.
How did you do in the challenge? During the day we had no idea as to what our individual standings were. We kept asking but there was no response. This is something that should be addressed in the future.