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Dan making it big time in ‘fickle game’ of horse racing

  • JackSportDanKatz
Dan Katz, a horseracing trainer, has always loved horses; he was involved in racing straight out of the army, left it for a number of years and has finally returned - full circle.
by JACK MILNER | Sep 07, 2017

“I’ve got a job where I don’t have to deal with hundreds of people; I love every moment of what I am doing and with the support of my family I could not be happier.”

Dan matriculated from Herzlia in Cape Town in 1983 and went into the army.

 “When I was at school, we would sit at the back of the class listening to racing commentaries and that got the adrenalin pumping. My parents understood my passion and they were always behind me.”

When Dan came out of the army he got a job with trainer Darryl Hodgson, who at the time was training out of a farm in Philadelphia, owned by Harold Sirin. “Darryl had his own horses at the time and I spent six months with him. Then I got a job offer with Derek Dalton, so I decided to move.”

Guy Rixon, one of the top trainers in the Western Cape, offered him a job. Rixon was the son of Ralph Rixon who trained one of South Africa’s favourite greys, Jamaican Music, who went on to win the Durban July.

Guy had some very good horses at the time and it was a great opportunity for Dan. “He had a top string including a filly called Wainui who won the Queen’s Plate.”

Dan had a great position at the stable and when Rixon went up to Durban during the winter season, Dan was left to run the stable in Cape Town.

But at the tender age of 24, Dan decided to go out on his own, but he learned the harsh reality that training horses and running your own business were two entirely different stories.

“I was just too young and had no business acumen. I couldn’t deal with all the owners and the bills and accounts, so after two and a half years I decided to give it up.”

Also, he got married and they moved to Umtata where he managed a supermarket.

He got divorced and decided to go to Israel, where he met his present wife, Liat.

Then in 2000 Dan’s mother passed away and he felt that as an only child it was his duty to come back and spend time with his father.

“We returned to Cape Town and for the first year I managed the tea room at Kirstenbosch Garden.”

At that point he had a chance meeting with one of the leading Cape trainers, Greg Ennion. “He was looking for someone and that’s when I decided to go back into horseracing.

“In 2007 I got back together with Darryl Hodgson. He was training for Hassen Adams who is one of the leading owners in the country and it was a great opportunity for me. So, after 30 years, I had gone full circle and was back where I started.” Dan remained Hodgson’s assistant trainer for nine years but Adams, who is chairman of Grand Parade Investments, needed somebody to manage his racing affairs. Hodgson was Adams’ first choice as the pair had been together for many years.

“Darryl is very involved with Hassen and there are few new things brewing. So, he has moved on and I took out a trainer’s licence.”

The new racing season in the southern hemisphere always kicks off on August 1 and that was the date Dan could saddle his first runner in his own name. “I thought things went very well in August. I could not have hoped for a better start.”

His first winner came on August 19 when Lalena, despite having run well on her first start, narrowly beat Love Supreme by a short head at generous odds of 25-1. Dan also had two placed on the day.

At this time of the year they race at most twice a week in Cape Town, so it speaks volumes that winner number two came just one week later when I Am Captain romped home by,.25 lengths, this time at much shorter odds of 2-1.

Just four days later Dan ended the month on a high when Dex Dexter notched up his second win from just three starts.

“He is way, way above average, he has the right pedigree and an excellent temperament. He could go places as long as he remains sound.”

At the moment Dan has 32 horses in his stable - Adams owns all 32.

“You always have a nice injection of horses from Hassen. He’s been very good to me.”

Five years again, Dan and his wife experienced a great moment when their son Dor-El, was born. “We waited for him for many years, but he was born in 2012. They are my backbone. They support me through thick and thin and without them I would not be able to do this job.

“Horseracing is a very fickle game. You’re only as good as your last winner and as quickly as you come out on your feet, you can get knocked back just as quickly. I have a job I love with a family who support me, and I couldn’t wish for anything better.”

 

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