Adam Azzie is another of South African racing’s rising young stars. As the son of trainer Mike, the grandson of trainer Herb and the grandson of training colossus George Azzie, Adam was born to be a racing man and there is every indication that he has inherited the superb horsemanship which is and was the hallmark of his predecessors. An outstanding sportsman at school, Adam is now developing his love of racing and horses to the point where there is no doubt that the revered name Azzie is in very safe hands. With the perfectionist and passionate Mike Azzie as his mentor, the soon-to-be 24 year old is bound to go far in this business.
What is your name and age? Adam Andrew Azzie – 24 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Capricorn, 11 January 1987.
Where do you live? I live in Midrand on an estate called Midstream Estate, which is about 5min from the stables.
Your great grandfather, grandfather and father’s names are synonymous with horse racing. How big was the pressure for you to follow in their footsteps? The pressure to be a trainer has never been there. My dad, from a young age, always said he would not pressurize or push any of us to train race horses as he believed that to be a successful trainer you need to want it badly for yourself and be extremely passionate about racing. There is some pressure from my side to follow in their footsteps and to achieve what they have.
Tell us about your family? I am part of a large family; my immediate family consists of seven of us. My dad and mom, Michael and Sharon. My two sisters, Alexis and Gabby, my two brothers Dexter who is my twin and my younger brother Ryan.
Tell us about your school days? Well, my school days! I could probably sit down for an entire day and talk about my experiences and memorable events that happened while I was at school. Fortunately for me I was blessed to be sent and accepted into Pretoria Boys High School. This is a school with a lot of heritage and tradition and where I met people from all walks of life. I was given the opportunity to excel in anything from academic studies to playing almost any sport and there are many cultural clubs one could be a part of. All I can say is I was privileged and extremely fortunate to attend Pretoria Boys High.
In matric you were made Head of House at Pretoria Boys High. That in itself was a great honour as guys like Chilliboy Ralepelle and John Smit (both major names in SA rugby) preceded you. Tell us about it? Yes, being made head boy of my hostel, Rissik House, was a great honour. I learned so much that year and matured more than I could have ever imagined. The fact that people such as John Smit, Chilliboy, Bernard Kantor and my brother Oscar Pistorius attended such an amazing school humbles me and makes me realize the quality of men that walk through the corridors of Boys High. It is evident to me that P.B.H.S delivers esteemed and respected gentlemen. I hope, and aim, to achieve recognition as a top champion race horse trainer and maybe one day my name will be mentioned in the same breath as those legends.
Which sports did you excel in at school? I excelled mostly in water polo when I was in Pretoria Boys High. I represented my schools 1st team in form 4 & 5 and played provincial water polo (U14, U16 & at open level). I loved polo and will forever appreciate the amazing memories of my water polo tours.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? Well, the girls in my family call me Addie but it looks like Azzman has stuck and been passed down for generations.
Do you have a steady girlfriend or are you playing the field? Single and ready to mingle – Ha! Ha!.
Favourite food? Sushi.
Favourite drink? Coca Cola.
Favourite music? House.
Favourite sport? Horse Racing.
Favourite soccer team? Man. Utd.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Mauritius.
Who are your close friends in racing circles? Mathew de Kock, Mike Shaw, Corne Orffer & Gavin Lerena. I have a lot of time and respect for these men and they are all good mates of mine.
According to your Dad you did not take a great deal of interest in the horses or stable activities as a young schoolboy. When did you really start becoming interested in all the happenings at the stable? Well as a schoolboy I was always participating in sports and then in high school, being in boarding school, I was not really around the stables much. When I left school I was fortunate enough to spend more time with my dad and was around the stables a lot more. I became really interested and when the bug bit me, it hit me hard and I have not looked back since. I love what I do.
You have the reputation of having a real affinity with the horses and that they relate to you. When did you first realize that you had this gift? I don’t think I could point out a specific moment. I find the more time I spend around my horses the more I am able to develop a better understanding and respect for these amazing animals. I believe from this a strong connection between my horses and I have emerged. I guess it just comes with time. I do prefer to be gentle and patient when approaching any task involving horses.
When Malan du Toit, the horse whisperer, visited your yard you took a keen interest in how he handled the horses. Did you find you learnt a lot from him and how useful has this been to you? Yes! Every afternoon I spent with Malan I gained so much knowledge. He is so patient with the horses and always had time for any questions I had.This made it easy to learn from him. A lot that he has taught me I have put to use in the yard and I have only had positive results especially with schooling horses at the starting stalls.
How much of racing do you watch? A lot. But I still don’t feel it’s enough. It’s never enough. J
What short / long term plans do you have for your career? Short term is to get our big boy Potala Palace to achieve the heights and results we are expecting of him. As a long term goal I would like to go overseas to further my knowledge in horse racing. The ultimate goal would be to achieve champion trainer status in South Africa and then on an international level. It is an extra-ordinary goal but this is my passion. I love what I do and believe I will reach the tops one day.
Training winners must be a great thrill for you but on a daily basis what is it about training that you really enjoy? Yes, it is a great feeling to see my horses excel. To be honest every day with a race horse is a new lesson and I am always excited to learn something new from my horses and the people around them. There is also a lot of personal research I have done and there are masses of books to learn from. I am in awe that we are able to transcend the communication barrier which exists between man and horse, somehow relating to this amazing animal. With existing modern science we are able to learn new things every day.
What things about training do you find really trying? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand the logistics of racing. I find this quite trying.
What specifics do you look for in a horse at the various sales? When buying horses at the sales I look at the basics. First – horses with good conformation and good pedigree but you can’t ignore a wow factor, Some horses may have a great blood line and bad conformation or vice versa but yet when you look at them they just take your breath away and something draws you in and makes you look again. Buying horses is a gamble, so I feel sometimes you have to go with your gut and bid for that horse that grabs you.
Your stable ‘star’ Potala Palace suffered a setback recently but still looks to have a bright future. How involved are you with him and what are your thoughts on him? I am extremely involved with Potala Palace and love him to bits. My thoughts on him are that he will be back.
Apart from Potala Palace which of your horses do you feel could have a bright future? We have a small yard at the moment but other horses that I feel could have a bright future or ones to watch out for are: Magic Smoke; Solarium and Tally Blue. Another colt I am very fond of is Masai Warrior.
Which is your favourite horse in the yard? It is very close between Vacherin and Potala Palace.
Your dad is a perfectionist and a great horseman. How demanding is he on you? My dad is a perfectionist and a true horseman. He is fairly demanding about the way he wants things to be organized and run in the stable yard, but he is no more demanding on me than he is on any other of his employees. He is a fair man and treats us equally.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt from him with regards to the training of horses? Patience, patience and more patience. He always tells me to spend as much time as possible with each horse and says “when preparing a horse for a race the horse will tell you when he is ready.”
Describe your typical day training – from the time you start to the end of the day? My day starts at 4am and I am in the yard by 4.30am. My daily activities consists of checking horse’s legs and leavings, track work, nebulizing, putting beamer blankets and massage blankets on horses, checking that horses are properly groomed and for those that need to be iced. The horses usually walk in the afternoons and certain treatments are repeated. Some daily medications are then repeated. We leave the stables between 17.30 and 18.00.
From your own observations what do you consider to be very important factors in order to make a success of training? One has to be methodical and meticulous with the basics before moving onto the bigger aspects of training.
Which has been the most memorable and exciting day you have had in racing thus far? Potala Palace winning the Premier’s Champion Stakes at Greyville on Gold Cup Day.
If for any reason you had to give up being a trainer what else would you consider doing? I enjoy interacting with people as well as entertaining them. I would have to explore some form of marketing where interacting with people on a daily basis is guaranteed.
Do you ever advise friends to have a bet when your stable really fancies their runner? No, not really but they never stop asking. Ha! Ha!
Outside of racing what is your biggest passion? Racing is my passion. I do love my family and am passionate about them.
How do you celebrate a big win? Popping a bottle of quality champagne in the box at Turffontein race course.
Are most of your friends people connected to racing or are there a mix? I have a wide variety of friends extending from racing, school and varsity.
Your friend and patron is the legendary Oscar Pistorius. How inspiring is it for you to watch him blazing the tracks around the world? It is extremely inspiring to watch Ozzy do so well all over the world. He is an amazing individual and a great friend to have in the world.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? My philosophy is that all influential parties involved in racing should stick together so that racing in South Africa can last for as many years after me as it has before me.