05/11/2011 3:44PM

Hastings: Stolzenberg in good company


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Elizabeth Stolzenberg wasn’t planning on being the hottest trainer at Hastings this year. In fact, she was considering stepping back from training horses last December. Thanks to owner Glen Todd, she changed her mind, and the horses she started at the current meet couldn’t be running any better.

From 10 starts she has 6 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds. She stands alone in second place in the trainer standings, and she also won the first stakes race of her career with Classic Alley Kat in the $50,000 Brighouse Belles for fillies and mares April 23.

“I was down to just a couple of horses in December, and I just didn’t think I could earn enough money to make a living, so I was looking at other options,” said Stolzenberg. “Glen helped me out by sending some of his horses my way and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Glen Todd, mostly in partnership with Patrick Kinsella, is the leading owner at Hastings. Most of his horses are trained by Troy Taylor, who has been the leading trainer at Hastings for the past four years. With 12 wins Taylor is well on his way to another title. Stolzenberg has galloped horses for Taylor for about 15 years.

“Troy is like a father to me,” said Stolzenberg. “He’s my rock. I can talk to him about anything, and let’s face it, he is a great horseman.”

The respect goes both ways.

“She’s a hard worker and deserves everything she gets,” said Taylor. “I know I don’t want to be running against her.”

Stolzenberg, 40, was hoping for a career as a dairy farmer when she discovered the racetrack. She was taking a two-year livestock diploma program at the Fraser Valley College, but when she didn’t get the placing she wanted for a practicum, she was guided to the track by one of her instructors.

“I just wanted to milk cows, but somebody from the program beat me to position at the farm I was looking at,” said Stolzenberg. “I was considering the chicken position, but I was kind of afraid of catching and killing chickens. I was really upset, and one of my teachers who knew I liked horses told me to go try the track. If I wasn’t rejected from the milking practicum I would probably be a dairy farmer now.”

Stozlenberg, who has ridden horses all her life, ended up doing her practicum with trainer Bill McLaren. She was as green as grass when she asked McLaren about the people who were exercising the horses.

“I asked Bill how much they had to pay to ride the horses,” said Stolzenberg. “When I learned it was the other way around I was pretty excited. Plus, you didn’t have to tack them up or brush them. I could get on about 30 a day.”

After galloping horses for a few years, she took out her trainer’s license in 1999. In her first year she won a couple of races at Portland Meadows.

At the time she was married to trainer William La Vanway, from whom she is now divorced.

“We won some races with pretty bad horses,” recalls Stolzenberg. “When we started getting better ones we put everything in William’s name. Really, that’s what makes or breaks a trainer. You can’t be a good trainer if you don’t have good horses. I am lucky to have some nice ones now.”

Juggling a career and raising her two daughters Anastasia, 11, and Annalise, 5, keeps Stolzenberg hopping.

“What is tricky is that unfortunately they want to follow in my footsteps and come to the races,” she said. “Anastasia was crying because I couldn’t bring her to track last Friday night. Really, they are the reason I do all of this. I even have their names embroidered on my silks.”

Stolzenberg may have failed in her quest to become a dairy farmer, but she appears to be on her way to a successful career as a trainer. She also didn’t give up her goal to get a degree, and she said that two years ago she graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of British Columbia.

“A fine arts degree doesn’t really have a lot to do with training horses,” said Stolzenberg. “But, going to university has helped me in many ways that relate to the work I do, particularly research about problems a horse might be having. It is also something I can use to inspire my two girls to help them become strong and independent women.