Horses / Columnists

Piere Strydom
7 minute read
10 May 2014
11:37 am

Loss makes one face reality

Piere Strydom

Last weekend one of my best friends and business partner, Pat Abrahams, sadly died in a tragic car accident. For those who don’t know anything about him, he used to own horses with Gary Alexander about 20 years ago.

FILE PICTURE: South African champion jockey Piere Strydom.Picture: Supplied.

He had been out of racing for all these years but ironically, at the time of his death, was looking at buying a horse and getting back into the game. It shows that while you can take the man out of the game, you can’t take the game out of the man. He was always a smiley and friendly guy and in fact, I’d had always been called the “world’s oldest teenager” by Louis Goosen until Pat took over my title. He still had a pony tail at his age, enjoyed his music, poker and the good life.

My condolences go out to his family and friends.

We often think how vulnerable our lives can be and as jockeys, that is particularly true. We often have to race on horses – who weigh 10 times what we do – at speed, and get ourselves into very tricky situations. We are trying to ride for the trainer, owner and punter yet we have to take one another’s safety into account and have such a short space and time to do it all.

It is strange that on 1 May we commemorated 20 years since the death of racing driver Ayrton Senna at Imola in Italy. When one watches the crash it almost looked innocuous. I have seen accidents that have looked a lot worse and watched the driver walk away from the car. Yet the car landed in such a way that Senna was killed.

I have seen similar incidents in horseracing. Accidents that looked harmless have proven fatal and vice versa. Often these thoughts can play on your mind as you’re about to compete against one another. You go about your business each day, riding your six or seven races and you don’t think about what can happen – until something does happen, and it draws your attention back to your vulnerability.

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Today’s race meeting kicks off with a work rider’s race and as it is over 1450m on the inside track, you need a good draw. Agile Combat has shortened in the betting. He comes from quite far behind and as we go into winter the going becomes harder and the track speeds up. That should not be in his favour. As it is a small field he could be a lot closer to the leaders but I’m going to favour the lightly raced horses in Aeton and On This Rock.

I would ignore Aeton’s last run and I think this track will suit him very much. I rode him last time and struggled to place him behind another horse so he could drop the bit and relax. Subsequently he pulled his way to the front and tired quite badly.

Race 2 in a Juvenile Plate over 1450m and it’s important to have a horse with experience over the track and distance so I’m leaning towards Intandokazi and Latus Blitz as they fit the bill.  Another who could improve, especially off a good draw, is Unparalleled.

Race 3 is the first leg of the Place Accumulator and is once again a very open affair. Of those who have raced the form is not that strong so a first timer could quite easily win this. The horse I’m leaning towards is Sebonac. I have ridden her and she didn’t stride out that well so I would not suggest banking her. Other to include are Mayfleur and Misty Winter. As this is the first leg you have the opportunity to watch the betting and if money comes for a first timer, then include it.

I ride The Light House in Race 4. She had a bad draw last time and is not much better off on this occasion. She was beaten by Leah’s Little Luv so I am surprised we are shorter in the betting than the horse who beat us by three lengths last time.

I do not think the form was that strong last time so I’m banking African Splendour in all bets. Off a good draw and stronger collateral form she is the horse to beat. I don’t want to sound like I’m contradicting myself but at the price I would not have a straight bet on her.

In Race 5 I ride Melting Pot. I’m quite surprised at her shortening in the betting. On collateral form lines she cannot beat Wild Ash or Lady Muffet. My first call was for Wild Ash who needs to be included in all bets. My concern is the distance. I’m not sure she will see out 2600m and might just flop completely. She raced wide all the way around the turn last time and that puts her ahead of my ride – as long as she stays.

However, the horse I think we all have to beat is Casual. She has raced over this type of trip before and it was in the Grade 1 SA Oaks. I will go with her and Wild Ash in both the PA and Pick 6 as I see it as a two-horse race.

In Race 6 I’m riding Gunfighter. He ran in a moderate race last time, has a bad draw and I would be happy with a place. Once again I will cut it down to two horses. My first choice is Crown Gold. He has a good draw, has raced against stronger and he has a 2.5kg-claiming apprentice up. The last time he ran over the course and distance he had the worst of the draw. He was beaten by Trip Tease who franked the form time and time again.

The only other horse I would include is Greasepaint. He also has a good drawn and with the pace he showed last time, should enjoy the inside track.

In Race 7 I ride Ginoclock. She has the benefit of a good draw and can place in this field. However, I am once again making it a two-horse race. My first choice is Flame Cat. It is very difficult to assess a two-year-old racing against older horse as she has a high race figure. Even though she has run against some of the best juveniles in the country it is hard to make her a banker. But she does have to be included.

My second choice, and my value bet of the day, is Summer Adieu. She’s had many excuses in her last couple of runs and she’s also dropping in merit rating. She is drawn No 1 and is known to pull so she might just enjoy the shorter distance.

I ride Paschal Moon in Race 8. She can run a place in this field but I would prefer to rather run over 1200m. It is a very competitive field and numerous horses could place or win. You could just about include the field for the Pick 6 but I’m going to cut it down to three runners – Fanzene, Kings V and Olive Leaf.

Fanzene has finished quite close in feature races and now has the benefit of a 4kg claimer on top. Kings V is weighted to beat Oliver Leaf on their last run. But as Olive Leaf is draw No 1 and Kings V No 15 I will lean towards Olive Leaf. But last time I found 1200m too short for Kings V and she should be well suited to this 1450m, especially if the pace is hot from the outset.

Another horse to keep an eye on is For The Lads. She has campaigned in stronger company, her merit rating is coming down and she will enjoy this distance. She could be huge runner.

In Race 9 I’m leaning towards the Mike de Kock coupling. I think the better horse would be Siddharth but he is coming off a rest and I’m not quite sure how fit he is. I normally would not select a three-year-old filly against older horses but as Celtic Legend has the best current form, the benefit of a 4kg claimer and a good draw. she could be enough to get you through the PA.

For those who want to go wider, it could be wise to include your older fit horses – Soleil Royal, Tiger Storm and Beekeeper – in the Pick 6.