Piet Botha trades in his jockey’s licence for a trainer’s one tomorrow and the man who made a comeback as a rider when all seemed lost is intent on making a big success of his new career.
He said: “I have had training in mind for some time and I have Barn Nine with 33 boxes in the old section of the Milnerton Training Centre where trainers like Dean Kannemeyer, Dan Katz, Billy Prestage and Ronnie Sheehan are also based.”
Botha, 41, was forced to hang up his boots after a bad fall at Summerveld in 2010 caused a broken rib and endless pain that led to his being medically boarded with apparently-permanent nerve damage.
He had a string of Grade 2 and 3 winners to his credit (plus two Grade 1s in Mauritius) including the Green Point and Matchem on Roman Charger, the Peninsula Handicap (Dunford), the Chairman’s Cup, Odessa, Sceptre and two J & B Reserve Stayers.
He began a new career developing a coffee-machine business but the lure of the turf never left him and he returned in April last year to ride for Glen Puller. He has ridden 14 winners since then – Jay Rock being the first and last of them – and has also worked as Puller’s assistant.
He said: “The nerve damage was alright when I resumed race-riding but then it started playing up and it has been causing me problems for quite a while now.”
He passed the trainers’ exam at the first attempt (“although it wasn’t easy, I can tell you!”) and he is keen to build up his string from its present nine horses.
By Michael Clower