Piere Strydom. File photo: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG
Piere Strydom. File photo: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG

Former champion jockey Piere Strydom, 53, is taking a leaf out of golf legend Gary Player’s book as he returns to race-riding at the Vaal on Thursday.

Nine-times Major champion Player was still winning tournaments at Strydom’s age — his two victories in 1989 came in the RJR Championship and GTE North Classic.

In fact, Player was still competing at the highest level aged 71 — he played in 52 Masters tournaments, the last in 2009.

Old jockeys have been making news in 2019. In May, at the age of 58, Jon Court became the oldest jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby by partnering the three-year-old Long Range Toddy.

Strydom made SA racing history five years ago when riding his 5,000th winner on Act Of War in the Selangor Cup at Kenilworth on November 22 2014.

More recently, Strydom has had a spell on the holiday island of Mauritius, but it proved no picnic. His contact with the Rameshwar Gujadhur stable was terminated after he was suspended from August 6 to September 19. He was found guilty of failing to ride a horse to the stipendiary stewards’ satisfaction on August 3.

“Despite the fact that it ended quite suddenly, I think the breakaway on the island has done me well. I feel refreshed and ready to bounce back into the swing of things,” Strydom said.

So can Strydom return with a winner at the Vaal on Thursday? He has two rides and both possess chances, notably Anatolio in the second race.

Trained by Ashley Fortune, Anatolio ran his best race to date when finishing third behind Mr Hugo at Turffontein in August. The worry for Strydom is that champion trainer Sean Tarry introduces a well-bred newcomer in Bergerac.

Strydom’s third race mount, Our Man in Havana, rates an each-way chance as the colt should enjoy the step-up in distance. The likely favourite in this 1,450m contest is Muzi Yeni’s ride Fire To The Rein.

Another runner who could attract market support is Mike de Kock’s three-year-old Perfectly Putt. The stable will be looking for an improved effort from the son of Vercingetorix after he failed to justify favouritism in a race at Turffontein in July.

Warren Kennedy continues to head the national jockeys’ log and he has seven booked rides at Thursday’s meeting. While Western Oasis has an each-way shout in the fourth race, his best chance of success may lie with Gold Griffin in the final leg of the Pick Six.

A son of Grey’s Inn, Gold Griffin has proved a bargain buy at R35,000 and a third win looks on the cards provided the gelding can thwart the challenges of another Tarry inmate, Slay The Dragon.

Slay The Dragon is a son of Pomodoro, and another of that sire’s progeny, Kapama, makes plenty of appeal in the fifth race. Trainer Brett Webber’s filly has been placed in her last two starts.

Kirkconnel Lass has proved a good servant to Steve Moffatt’s stable and the mare has earned more than R450,000 in stakes. She can earn another cheque, but is likely to find it tough, conceding 3.5kg to Kapama.

Trainer St John Gray had a winner at Turffontein on Tuesday and will be hoping his filly Jive Express can register a third career win when she takes on Jacko Boy and Always Red in the final leg of the jackpot. Kennedy retains the ride on the four-year-old.

Selections

1st race: No selection

2nd race: (2) Anatolio (6) Bergerac (1) Tokolosh (3) Live By Night

3rd race: (7) Fire To The Rein (12) Perfectly Putt (11) Our Man In Havana (2) Crazy Charlie

4th race: (5) Irrevocable Dream (3) Western Oasis (8) Royal City (2) Category Four

5th race: (5) Kapama (1) Kirkconnel Lass (7) Empress Rock (6) Black Tie

6th race: (4) Hartleyfour (9) Hot August (8) Baahir (6) Snow In Seattle

7th race: (10) I Am Batman (2) Silver Spectrum (3) Defy Gravity (7) War Legend

8th race: (4) Jive Express (1) Jacko Boy (5) Always Red (8) My Elusive

9th race: (1) Gold Griffin (4) Slay The Dragon (6) In For A Penny (2) Hit For Six