NATHAN Kotzen is a long standing member of the powerful Mike de Kock team. Based at Summerveld, Nathan (or Natie as he is affectionately known) is described by de Kock as a “top trainer in his own right.”
Here is an interview with Nathan, conducted by SARAH WHITELAW, and published this week on Gavelhouse.
Nathan’s brother Glen is a top trainer in the Western Cape, while his cousin is successful PE based conditioner, Mitch Wiese. Kotzen has achieved plenty of success while representing the de Kock yard in KZN in the off season, and while Mike is out of the country. He has gained plenty of experience and knowledge from working for many leading trainers, and counts the likes of Pat Shaw, David Payne and Pat Lunn as past employers.
How long have you been with your trainer?
What has been the reason why you have remained in your role today?
I enjoy working with horses and born as my dad was a jockey and is training now. My one brother, Grant, was a jockey, and Glen is a trainer, and other brother Darren is a farrier. It is in my blood.
What are some of the key roles as an assistant trainer & how long is an average day?
An average day in the summer will start 4am to around 11:00 am and in winter we start 5:00 am – 11:00 am. In the afternoon we start 15:30 till 18:00. The key roles for an assistant trainer is to nominate and train the horses and to see that everything runs smoothly in the yard, ie to see the horses are sound and grooms do their work. When Mike is not here, I will nominate and train the horses and liaise with Mike when I nominate a horse.
How many horses do you generally have in training each day?
Plus minus 100-120 horses in Summerveld.
Has your role changed over the years as the Stable has grown & more people have been employed?
My roll has changed with more employees. … I got given more trust from Mike as I got more responsibilities.
Have you had to develop better people skills to manage all the support staff?
Yes, definitely. When young, you learn everyday as you get older you get wiser and manage situations better and learn how to work with different people.
Have you ever wanted to take out your own license, many Assistants generally do?
Obviously the thought has entered my mind when you get the right support from owners. At the same time I am happy and basically training now with Mike and good horses. I don’t have the pressure from owners and bills to pay. Mike leaves me to do my own thing.
Biggest disappointment day at the races?
My biggest disappointment was when COLUMBO broke down in a big race (Grade 3), as he got to the front, he snapped his leg.
Best day or moment you can recall with your trainer at the Races?
My best day was when GREY’S INN won the July.
There has to be a job within your role that you don’t enjoy?
Yes, to fire staff and horses getting injured…. and to report the bad news to the owners!
Tell us the best horses you have been involved with.
Kildonan, Musir, Mahbooba, Flight Alert and Ipi Tombe –very good horses.
Has there been one horse or event over the years , that helped the Stable become successful today?�
Before my time working for Mike, I think Horse Chestnut… also I think the general and consistent results.
What makes your Trainer continue to be successful?
Mike is a very good business man and not scared to try new things. He knows how to get a horse fit and ready for a big race.