Glen Kotzen: Star of the Week

The Kotzen name has been synonymous with South African horseracing for many a decade and Cape based trainer GLEN KOTZEN (47) is continuing the great work produced by his family. He has his own private establishment called Woodhill Racing Estate that houses 100 horses and he feels that working from home is a great advantage as he gets to spend plenty of time with his family. He also has a permanent yard at Summerveld in KZN, managed by his long-time assistant Frikkie Greyling, where he has 40 boxes. Glen tasted success in South Africa’s most prestigious race, the Durban July in 2009 when his champion, the late Big City Life won in good style as a three-year old. He has since produced another champion of note, the classy filly PRINCESS VICTORIA who has already done the stable proud by winning four Grade 1 races at two and three years old, en route to claiming consecutive Equus Awards. The daughter of Victory Moon is back in the province for the winter season and Glen expects another big campaign from her. WINNING FORM wishes Glen Kotzen Racing everything of the best for the season, as well as in their future endeavours and we will be watching the Princess’ progress with great interest.

What is your name and age?
Glen Shaun Kotzen.

What is your star sign and birthdate?
Libra x Scorpio cusp, 23 October 1965.

Where were you born?
Newmarket, Johannesburg.  My dad won on a horse called Russian Glen and he named me after the horse.  Years later, we bred a horse, also a grey born on my birthday and we named him Russian Glen as well.

Where were you brought up?
I was brought up in Zambia and Rhodesia.

Where do you live?
Woodhill Racing Estate, Agter Paarl.

Tell us about your family?
My wife Kathi has been involved with horses all her life and our three children Kuyan, Kirra and Liam all enjoy racing and the Woodhill life.

Do you have a ‘nickname’?

Favourite food?
Crab curry when I’m in Durban and I love to cook! Master Chef in the making!!

Favourite drink?
A good wine from the Paarl Boland region.

Glen celebrating Big City Life's July victory
Favourite music?
I love to dance so any music will do!!

Favourite book?
Leaving Jack.

What are you reading at the moment?
Computaform and Sporting Post is all I have time for at the moment.

What is the characteristic you like most about yourself?
I am very humble and get on with everyone from all walks of life.

What is the characteristic you like least about yourself?
My good nature, as people tend to take advantage of me.

Favourite sport?

Are you interested in soccer and, if so, which is your favourite soccer team?
I wasn’t a fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed the World Cup. I do like the team, Real Madrid.

Favourite holiday destination?
As a child Victoria Falls, today any skiing destination in Europe.

What tertiary qualification did you achieve?
Studied and qualified as an electrician. During my practical I blew every light in the house and realized this wasn’t for me.

Where did you go to school?
All over. Lockview Primary Bulawayo and finished schooling at New Forest High.

You come from a family heavily involved in horse racing. Was there ever a time you considered a career outside of racing?
Growing up I thought I’d be a priest.

Did you ever think about becoming a jockey?
Yes, I was accepted by the academy. My dad put me off as he said I would be too heavy and he wasn’t wrong looking at me today!!

As a young man did you befriend any of the jockeys or trainers?
Of course, most of my colleagues are my friends and jockeys.

On completing your schooling did you go straight into a racing stable?
I grew up with racehorses all my life.  Paul and Avril Gadsby gave me my first job where I ran a spelling farm for close on 2 years. Then Trevor Laing and then the army. Spent 2 years in National Service, Ralph Rixon for 7 years and then 2 years with Clodagh Shaw after which I went on my own.

Who was the first trainer you worked for?
My father, then Trevor Laing (1st paid position).

Tell us how long you were with him and how valuable that experience was?
I worked for Trevor for 2 years. With racehorses you never stop learning. Wherever I worked, I learnt something new.  I am still learning today. If you are prepared to listen you will learn.

Which were the best horses you worked with early on in your career?
With Ralph it was Honey Bear who was one of the few horses to win after the Equine Flu broke.  Heir To Riches, top horse and won a group 1.  Probably the most memorable was an Argentinean horse called Tropicante, owned by Dave White and trained by Ralph Rixon. He had a heart bigger than himself. He was beaten a short head in the July and went on to win the Gold Cup coming from 28 lengths off in a very short straight, it was a great win.

Woodhill Racing Estate
When did you get your trainer’s licence?

Have you always trained in the Cape?

Where are your stables in the Cape and tell us about your team?
Woodhill Racing Estate is in Agter Paarl, run by my wife Kathi, and my dad Nathan, Jason Wanklin and Mazenyo Matabase during the KZN Champion’s Season. We also encourage our staff to partake in numerous upliftment programs and three of our top grooms are doing a course right now through the Cape Breeders Club.

You have a satellite yard in Durban. Where is it and who runs that operation for you?
I have a permanent yard in KZN, run by my assistant trainer Frikkie Greyling and myself during Champion’s Season.

How many horses do you have in Cape Town and in Durban?
We have been restricted to 40 boxes in KZN.  At home we can house 100 horses. We also have brilliant spelling facilities and 20 hectares of paddock ground, where horses can spell in-between racing and where our mares and foals stand.

It seems the bigger trainers are setting up satellite yards in all 3 major centres. Do you have any plans to set up in Gauteng?
Gauteng is definitely on the cards. We are busy negotiating as we speak.

Do you find it a big advantage living on your training establishment, Woodhill?
Of course. In the early years I never saw my children. There was no bonding in the first two years of my eldest son’s life as I was never there.  The advantage is that I have my family with me and my pets,16 dogs with me all the time.  The advantage of having your own establishment is that you have no restrictions as to how many horses you need to work, or the time involved. Every cent spent on the tracks and facilities is an investment.

More and more trainers are using the treadmill and swimming pool to get their horses super fit. Do you have any of the above?
No. We have over the years swum horses in our man made dams in the summer.  We have two hot walkers which are a great help, and we continue developing Woodhill all the time.  We will eventually have all the necessary equipment, as time and funds allow.

To date, which would you consider to be the best horse you have trained?
A tough one, Big City Life or Princess Victoria.  Closest to my heart BCL as we bred and raised him and he won the July as a three year old. However, fillies like PV don’t come around every day. To be Equus 2yo and train on to be Equus 3yo is a wonderful achievement. It’s a tough call and I  would hate to choose, both are top horses.

What is the most satisfying and exciting moment you have had in racing to date?
Obvious one would be winning the July, then my first Group 1, but in retrospect getting a bad maiden to win is very rewarding.

Right now which of your horses do you have high hopes for during the KZN winter season?
We are very grateful to have Princess Victoria with us. Jet Aglow is Group 1 placed and another filly for the staying races is Beloved Betty who is developing into a lovely filly.  We are very excited about a couple of younger horses coming through the ranks which are our future.

PRINCESS VICTORIA is a top class filly. Tell us about her temperament and what plans do you have for her during the winter?
She has the big match temperament. She is quirky and takes her time when she goes to the track. She likes to show off when she is in the ring, as she wants everyone to look at her.  We aim to run her in the Fillies Sprint at the end of May. Depending on how she pulls up she will go into the Tibouchina and her main aim is the Garden Province. This season she is bigger and stronger than ever before.

Princess Victoria

You have entered JET AGLOW in the Vodacom Durban July. She has been right up there with the best of her generation and recently had an excellent comeback run in the KRA Fillies Guineas. How has she taken the run and do you think she will stay the 2200m?
Well, her mission for the season is the Woolavington, to run her over  2000m against the best 3yo’s in the country. If she gets through it her owner would love to have a crack at the July.  She ran second to the current third favourite for the July, Beach Beauty, in the Paddock Stakes. If she does not compete in the July she will be aimed at the Garden Province.

What is your early fancy for the July?
Anything can happen from now until the end of June. You have to respect the Silvano colt Vercingetorix. When I looked at him in the ring I said what a beautiful colt.
He has the stamina to stay all day and is possibly the fastest improving 3yo in the country.

You have nominated BELOVED BETTY and GOLDEN DAWN for this weekend’s Listed East Coast Handicap to be run at Clairwood. The former needed her first run back in the province and enjoyed a good winter last season. How is she doing and what do you make of her chances in this race?
We were obviously disappointed with her last run as she needed it. Her work suggested that she is far better and she will be ready for this race now.

The latter also needed her last outing which was her first in KZN. She promised plenty early on in her career but has been disappointing. Does she have any issues and how do you think she will go in this listed event?
The handicapper killed her, as usual, so she had to drop in the ratings to be more effective. She likes to run fresh but we are happy with her and she is looking good.

Which horses from the yard can the public follow over the winter?
Princess Victoria and Jet Aglow in KZN.

Jet Aglow

Name a few of your more promising youngsters?
Kono and Varvello in KZN.

There were some really fantastic yearlings at the recent National Yearling Sales. How many did you manage to buy and tell us about their pedigrees?
We bought from all the top farms and all are by good stallions.  We managed to secure 12 horses. We still have shares available if anyone wants to contact us.

With the cost of keeping a horse in training becoming really expensive, what advice would you give to potential owners?
In relation to the stakes, it is still better owning a racehorse in South Africa than racing in UK. However, it would be nice if the stakes were to increase.   My advice to the owners is to ask upfront about the cost implications. We pride ourselves on discussing our fees and costs beforehand, so that our owners are aware before they get involved.  Racing is a great thrill and a networking tool for your business.  It is not a get rich quick plan.

Training at the Kotzen yard
Who is your stable jockey?
We are using Grant van Niekerk, but  he is currently on a two month holiday and we are in no rush to replace him.

Does the yard have a sponsor?

Does the Kotzen yard have a marketing team or a website?
We have a Facebook page and would like to think the best PRO team in the country.  We make it our business to keep our clients ahead of the rest.

Describe a typical day in the life of Glen Kotzen?
Work, work and more work. I have posed the question to my kids as to who would like to follow in my footsteps one day, and none of them are keen, the reason being purely as the hours are too long and the work never stops.  But they do like the benefits and love the people so they could very well land up in the industry as it has been very good to us as a family.

Did you enter the Charity Turf Challenge competition and if so, what were your shrewdy’s among your ten horses?
No, I never entered.

South African horseracing is getting huge competition from casinos and all sports betting,  especially soccer. Have you any ideas as to how to make racing ever more attractive to the man on the street?
Television and off course betting has kept people from the racecourse.  We need to educate the nation that it is a clean and fun sport and can be a great day out for the family.  An idea is to attract the public by offering less of a tax deduction for bets taken at the course.  Bring back amateur racing, which was enjoyed by our parents and ourselves as we were growing up. The marketing at the course is all wrong.  There should be better advertising and we need to think out of the box, as many ideas have failed in the past.

If the protocols regarding the import and export of horses are relaxed what affect do you think it will have on all aspects of the racing game?
The outside market we have at the moment is Mauritius.  Australia has the East.  We have shown that our horses are as good as any in Dubai.  We  know that they can run and take on the best.  We have never had a horse exported from this country that has died from African Horse sickness and if the protocols were relaxed it would open many windows of opportunity for the Racing Industry of South Africa.

The recent banning, for 8 years, of a very prominent British trainer, for using anabolic steroids has caused a great stir worldwide. What are your views on the banning?
If it’s a zero ban and you are found guilty you must go. However, in this country you can give an anabolic steroid with a withdrawal period.  What I do feel strongly about is that there should be varied penalties imposed on offenders.  You shouldn’t get the same penalty for steroids and a homeopathic cough mixture as you do for morphine.  Lesser offenders should be issued with warnings and not be painted with the same brush as serious offenders.

Glen and Kathi Kotzen
From what you have observed down the years do you think racing is ‘straight’?
This question comes up with everybody’s profile.  I do feel strongly that the NHRA needs to get involved more in the policing of races.  For example, if an odds on favourite runs unplaced, both the trainer and the jockey should be called in for an inquiry. In Singapore and Hong Kong there is no room for error. If they were more vigilant, like their counterparts, we would get rid of the bad apples.

Does the old maxim, “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman,” apply to Glen Kotzen?
Behind every successful man there is a boss.  Kathi is the driving force behind Glen Kotzen Racing, she plays a big role in keeping the company running smoothly and efficiently and the other lady in my life is Tracey Benson who does our PRO brilliantly and she is very well liked by our clients.

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