In his Herzlia High School days Dan Katz was the only guy in the class who had aspirations of training racehorses.
He has realised his ambition for the second time in his 34 years in the racing game, and sends out his first runner in his own name for Hassen Adams at Kenilworth next Tuesday.
“I couldn’t understand it. The teacher looked at me skew – all my classmates wanted to be lawyers, doctors, architects and civil engineers. Okay, most of them are multi’s today – and I’ve only ever worked in racing. But if I could turn back time, I’d put my hand up and give the same answer – and yes, I would do it all over again!”
The 52 year old Katz has done the hard yards in racing since coming out of his Army service in 1984. He is the often unshaven, but eloquent and well informed Hassen Adams Racing assistant trainer, often seen on the Under Starter’s Orders show on Saturday mornings, doing the pre-race chats on behalf of Silver Blue Racing.
Dan has worked under Darryl Hodgson for eight years and officially took over the string of 32 on Tuesday.
“Darryl will be filling a more broader racing manager position in Mr Adams’ racing operation and I have been given the opportunity to train the string on my own. I am looking so forward to the challenge – not that I will be doing much differently. Darryl has forgotten what many have yet to learn. He is a legend and can train horses in his sleep. He doesn’t enjoy the limelight like some guys – he doesn’t need to! I have been fortunate to have had him and Mr Adams as mentors at this time of my life.”’
Dan has gone full circle. He started out with Darryl Hodgson in 1984, before going on to stints with Derek Dalton and Guy Rixon, amongst others. He says that the late Guy Rixon had outstanding horses and fuelled his appetite further to be associated with top horses.
In 1989 he went on his own and became the youngest licenced trainer in the country.
“Young guys often think they know it all and can take on the world. It was a good experience and I learnt a lot – but I wasn’t ready for it!”
He says that he has learnt more in the past 8 years working for Hassen Adams and Darryl Hodgson than in the whole of the rest of his life. “Hassen is an astute and seasoned businessman. He knows his racing and has high expectations of those who work for him. He is just a very clever man.”
On the racing industry’s woes, Dan says that turnovers may drop but the genuine people with racing in their blood will never give up on the game.
“I am not old – as you can see! But I come from an era where if we arrived ten minutes after the first race at Milnerton, we had to park in Ixia Street and walk. And I am not talking about the Cape Guineas meeting! Sports betting and technology have galloped past the game somehow. I don’t have the answers to make up the lost ground. The world is different. In those days racing was the only game in town – for many of us, it still is!”