Hawthorne Racecourse (10/29/11)
Contact: Ron Uchman
SMALL OWNER-BIG SUCCESS
At the racetrack, attention usually goes to trainers and riders. But, without the owners we wouldn’t have horse racing, at least not on the scale that we do. Thought we would give a lot more coverage to horse owners this meet.
Not all owners are wealthy. In fact, the majority of them probably aren’t. But love of the game makes up for a lot and even those without deep pockets often find a way to make things work.
Partnerships aren’t uncommon and they can be great fun as well as a rather inexpensive way to get involved. We’ll get into partnerships later on but thought that we would start out with some owners that have done this on their own, or mostly on their own.
Walter Kotzmann is one of those.
Walter is a retired house painter so you know that he didn’t have deep pockets when he got into the game. However, Walter did have a great run of luck and most of the horses that he owned wound up making a profit for him, starting with his first.
Somewhat of a free spirit, the 72-year-young Kotzmann, originally from Stuttgart, the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, emigrated to the United States with his first wife when he was only 21.
“I was born when the war started. My father was killed in the war. As I got older, there was really nothing for me there. I was an adventurer. America was the place to go. I came in the 1960s. Who wouldn’t have wanted to be here in the 1960s? It was a great time to be here. There was so little crime. You could still pick up hitchhikers. We did a lot of camping. It was beautiful.
“In America, a poor guy like me could own a horse. That could never happen in Germany. There it is the sport of kings. Racing in Germany is only for those that were very rich. In the United States, you just have to be able to pay the bills.
“I figured that instead of going to buy season tickets for the Blackhawks or Bears, I would buy a horse. I did get interested in car racing as well as horse racing but I decided that I wanted to own my own horse.
“So I contacted Christine Janks, but she wasn’t taking on new owners at that time and she referred me to Jan Ely. It’s been a great partnership.
“My first horse was Captain Moonlight. We claimed him for $5,000 in 1995. He won for me, then won again. Altogether he won seven races for us. I was hooked. I was only making about $50,000 a year at that time but I bought another and he kept winning. At one time I owned five horses racing. I really enjoyed it. Altogether, I’ve gotten 43 wins. My walls are plastered with pictures. Jan did such a good job.
“My best horse was Lively Minister. He won 10 races for me, many in allowance and high-priced claiming company. He was a big closer and made me a lot of money.
“The only horse I have now that is racing is Silver Crush. We claimed her for $10,000 at Arlington. She won her next start in a $25,000 maiden claimer. She had a couple of decent races since.”
Walter’s love for his horses, not just for their racing ability, is one of the most unique and admirable things about him. Walter spoils his horses and does it quickly. He calls Silver Crush “Pinky” and calls out to her as he’s entering the barn. She is so excited to see him that she looks like a dog when the owner comes home after being gone all day. Very cute!
But “Pinky’s” not the only one. Walter still owns five of the horses that he campaigned, including Captain Moonlight, his first, and he, or one of the family, visits them all the time. He even visits horses that he used to own.
“I’m 72 and pretty much retired but I have to keep working to take care of my babies. I take care of my horses and my horses take care of me.”
Hawthorne Race Course opens for live racing on Saturday, October 1 and races live through Saturday December 31. Live racing will be conducted five days a week, racing Wednesday-Sunday. Live racing will also take place on Monday, December 26. First post daily is 1:35 pm. On Fridays through November 25, first post will be 3:00 pm. Hawthorne Race Course is located in Stickney IL at 3501 S. Laramie Ave. For information on live racing or groups at Hawthorne Race Course, contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700 or visit Hawthorne online at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.