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Striker Aiming For Memorable Met Swansong

Multiple champion in the twilight of his career - but still winning!

The 161st renewal of the WSB Gr1 Cape Town Met on Saturday 28 January heralds the end of an era for South African horseracing.

Multiple champion jockey Piere ‘Striker’ Strydom will take his final bow on L’Ormarins King’s Plate winner Al Muthana in the flagship 2000m contest, some 35 years after finishing runner-up behind Mark Antony and Felix Coetzee at his first Met attempt.

The honour roll of the great race shows that Piere has only won it once – that was back in 2003 when Angus powered home for leading owner Sabine Plattner from the widest of the draw to beat Free My Heart (Karl Neisius) and Set Afire (Anthony Delpech).

Flashback to 2003 – Piere Strydom and Angus win Met

“Angus was a lovely big strong son of Northern Guest. We had won the Premier Trophy three weeks earlier and had run second behind Ipi Tombe in the 2002 Durban July. Mark Neisius rode him to third in the previous year’s Met, when I coincidentally finished just behind him in fourth on Free My Heart. We knew Angus stayed the 2000m. There are naturally some question marks against Al Muthana staying the trip, but he is in prime form,”adds Piere.

He says that Bernard Fayd’herbe rode an intelligent race to win the L’Ormarins King’s Plate, and when the ride became available he snapped up the chance to partner the Australian-bred son of Deep Sleep.

Piere had other options, including Rain In Holland and Nexus.

“Al Muthana is the highest rated horse in the field. The only times he tried further, he was beaten under 5 lengths on very soft ground behind Flying Carpet in the Summer Cup, and was only just under 6 lengths behind his stablemate Sparkling Jewel in the Hollywoodbets Durban July last year. He is a dual Gr1 winning miler and given that he is in great form, it makes sense to take a chance with him in the Met, I feel. And Mr Maingard knows how to train Gr1 winners!”

On his draw of 12 in the 19 horse field, Piere shouldn’t have any sleepless nights. He won it from the 16 gate in a field of 16 on Angus.

Piere takes over from Bernard Fayd’herbe on Al Muthana (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

“Al Muthana will probably be ridden from off the pace, so I really don’t see the 12 gate as an issue,” he adds.

One thing that is unquestioned, is that Piere wants to win the race again. One strike in 35 years is not his standard!

“I recall my first Met ride like yesterday. I was just 21 and was still based in the Eastern Cape and rode Western Wind for Stanley Greeff. He raced in the Aldo Scribante silks. Western Wind ran his heart out and we finished second behind Mark Antony and Felix Coetzee. We could never have beaten them, but since then I have had a few closer calls!”

Ironically, Piere would move to Gauteng later in 1988 and return to win the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate on Yardmaster the same year.

“In the 1999 Met I finished a 1,75 lengths fifth on Yardmaster behind Fearless Streaker. I’d managed to lead in the Queen’s Plate because no-one wanted to go. In the Met, they went a bit harder and it’s a bit further. I sat fourth or fifth and a horse ran in behind me. I was subsequently fired by old man Spies. It wasn’t the last time in my career. It’s not difficult to blame the jockey and one learns to accept it as an occupational hazard,” he laughs.

1998 Gr1 J&B Met, Imperious Sue, North By Northwest

It was this close! North By Northwest  is shaded by Imperious Sue (Pic- Tony Mincione)

He reflects on the 1998 Met when he rode North By Northwest and was beaten a nose by Anthony Delpech on Imperious Sue.

“Imperious Sue was on the inside rail. We moved up to win it, but somehow Anthony kept the good filly going and we were pipped.” In a token compensation, Piere would win the Jubilee Handicap at Turffontein four months later on North By Northwest.

It’s over 40 years since his maiden career winner on 29 September 1982, when Piere won at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on the Johnny Nicholson-trained Saadabad.

At the age of 56, Piere is just about ready to canter into the sunset.

He certainly has done it all, professionally speaking.

He rode his 5000th career winner on Joey Ramsden’s Act Of War at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth in the Selangor Cup on 22 November 2014 and just two months ago rode his 5500th winner at Vaal for Barend Botes. Not bad for a young lad who didn’t want to be a jockey, but stuck it out to keep his Dad, Hekkie, happy!

“I am keen to go out with a winner at my last meetings in the various racing regions. I have ticked that box in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, so just need Gauteng and the Cape. And the Met would be the cherry on the top, it really would!”

On the domestic front, he is moving house with his Attorney wife Chrisna to the affluent wine-producing suburb of Constantia in the Cape, where the couple intend running an Airbnb.

He is clearly enjoying semi-retired life and has just returned from a week at the beautiful St Francis Bay, which is an hour down the Garden Route from his Gqeberha hometown.

Piere and Chrisna – enjoying life

“Chrisna has a strong legal practise up in Gauteng and clients down in the Cape. We are in the process of implementing changes at the new house in Cape Town and will generally be between the Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng for the forseeable future. Life’s good!”

And once he is retired, will he be sitting down to write the biography of a six-times national champion and international Gr1 winning jockey?

“I am not so sure that anybody would be  particularly interested to read about my life. But maybe, like Mr Ormond Ferraris, I will wait a few years and then consider it. I just hope my memory stays as strong as his has!”

Al Muthana is currently priced up at 20-1 with Hollywoodbets.

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4 comments on “Striker Aiming For Memorable Met Swansong

  1. Barry Dunnett says:

    A brilliant rider. No hesitation in buying your book. Best wishes

  2. Rian Rix says:

    He is a South African Hall of Famer , wish you all the very best in Met and your book

  3. Neill De Bruyn says:

    Punting winners was way easier in the heydays of Michael Roberts, Jeff Lloyd, Anton Marcus and Striker. Thanks guys 💰 .

  4. Michael Jacobs says:

    Striker Strydom is undoubtedly in the top two jockeys of all time in South Africa. He is no.1 and a blanket finish for second! Short heads separating Muis Roberts, Basil Marcus, Jeff Lloyd, Felix Coetzee, Dougie Whyte! Striker has got a Grade 1 winner still in him, and I think it will be this Summer season!

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