Rob Slade

published: 12 Aug 2014 in Movers and Shakers

WHEN leading racehorse syndicator Rob Slade gave up his accounting career to pursue his racing interest back in the 1990s he was adamant that it was for good. “Yes, I put all my cardigans with those leather patches in a pile in the backyard, threw in my green pens, some kerosene and started a bonfire,” he laughed. “There was the smell of burning leather and green ink in the air. Mind you I never wore a cardigan, let’s make that very clear!

Q: Rob, today you are one of the country’s most successful and respected syndicators with several outstanding yearling purchases going on to racetrack brilliance. Who are some of your best horses?

A: “Well Alinghi was obviously the first one to put us on the map. She was a freakish filly who won four Gr.1 events and more than $3.4m. We later sold her for a significant sum. Moment of Change is a three-time Gr.1 winner who has recently resumed racing. We are expecting a very good preparation from him with several Group races through the spring being the target. He’s only very lightly raced but already has $1.59m in stakes.

“Here de Angels was another well known horse, he still holds the 1100m Caulfield track record and was a very good sprinter. Enquare (pronounced “en-kew-ar”) is a young mare racing in Queensland who’s won five races from 12 starts and has $375,0000 in prizemoney. Her name is from the expression NQR (not quite right) as her dam is “Skewiff”! We plan to bring Enquare to Melbourne for the spring. Other good horses we have had would include the Group performers Time Matters and Brockman’s Lass.”

Q: Where did your interest in racing come from, were any members of your family involved in the industry?

A: “My late father Kel (Kelvin) was a small punter who liked to have a bet every week. He would always have the radio on of a Saturday listening to the scratchings and comments before the meetings. I remember going to the races with Dad from when I was about five years-old and loved it. I saw some great horses back in my younger years, like Dulcify and So Called, but I will always remember being in awe of the champion Kingston Town. I went to all three of his Cox Plate victories, but I especially remember the last one, it was spine-tingling stuff, just unbelievable. 

“Dad was a grass roots, hardworking man, he started off working on the trams and later became a bricklayer. My mum Pat, who I only lost recently, also used to work on the trams, as a conductress. I have an older sister Rhonda, who now lives in Perth, and the family was raised in Essendon. Not that I barracked for the Bombers though, perish the thought! I am a Richmond man and that’s where the Slade Bloodstock colours of yellow and black came from!”

Q: I understand you have a bit of a sporting background?

A: “Yes I really enjoyed playing cricket and football in my younger years. I was a fast bowler for Essendon Cricket Club for a number of years and as a teenager played Under 16s for Victoria. I played football in the VFA for Brunswick.

Dad was a Richmond supporter and I began to also follow the Tigers, it’s now even passed down to my daughters Melissa and Emma, who follow them. 

I became more heavily involved in the club back in the 1980s when I went into recruiting work for the club, which I did for five years. Part of the role also involved spying on opposition clubs training and reporting back to the coach at the time, of which we had a few!”

Q: Do you personally select the yearlings for syndication by Slade Bloodstock?

A: “I have been selecting my own yearlings for a number of years now but in the early days I was guided by my trainers at the time, such as Colin Alderson and Ken Sweeney. They put a lot of time into teaching me all they knew about conformation and selection, and I am certainly grateful for their advice. The same goes for Lee and Anthony Freedman, with whom Slade Bloodstock had a long and very successful relationship. I rate them both as outstanding selectors of horses and they have some “do’s and don’ts” that I still use today in my assessing.

“Even whilst with the Freedmans I selected many of our horses and in particular had great success with the Perth Magic Millions sale. The first year we headed there I bought Time Matters for just $50,000 and Brockman’s Lass for $75,000, these two both turned out to be successful Group performers. Moment of Change is another of my successful Perth yearlings, he was purchased for just $50,000.

“Just a funny sidenote in relation to yearling purchases. Our two best-performed horses are obviously Alinghi and Moment of Change and they were both Lot 13 of their respective sales, Alinghi at the Melbourne Premier Sale and Moment of Change at the Perth Magic Millions sale. As my birthday also falls on February 13, I consider it not to be unlucky as some people believe, it has definitely been my lucky number!”

Q: Can you let us in on some of your “secrets” when choosing a yearling?

A: “Well there are certainly a lot of factors when selecting a horse. First and foremost the horse must be an “athlete”. Similar to humans an equine athlete must have the right build to be successful. Short, podgy humans can’t run, the same goes for horses!

“Also, look for a well balanced horse who moves fluently, one who is light on its feet and has a good stretch when it walks. For me, a good length of rein is also an important criterion. Another tip to consider is going to a Magic Millions sale in January where most people are slanted towards buying a winner of the two year-old race the following year. If you find a nice staying type you want to purchase, the radar is off them a fraction, so you could find a bargain. Each sale has its own “flavour” if you like, and you can work around that to create opportunities.”

Q: What made you give up your “safe” job in accounting to go into syndicating racehorses?

A: “I guess you could say I basically fell into it more than anything. My trainers at the time asked me would I be interested into getting more involved with the horses, it really wasn’t planned and accounting paid well! My accounting background has been a major advantage in setting up and running my business successfully. Since starting up the syndicates I have had some really good clients who have then become friends, there’s a great camaraderie and I really get a kick out of seeing the excitement when we win races together. The feeling of winning a Group race especially, is unbelievable, you’d love to be able to bottle it!”

Q: Is there that one race you really would like to win above the others?

A: “Well seeing as I grew up in Essendon and have lived at Moonee Ponds for many years now, I’d say the Cox Plate is definitely the one race I would love to win. It really would be fantastic. Moonee Ponds would never be the same again, put it that way, everyone would know about it!”

Q: Looking to the future of Slade Bloodstock, are there any changes on the horizon?

A: “I’d say we have now got a greater mix of horses than ever before. I’ve been buying 10-12 a year in the past two years with around half of these staying-bred horses. I have some by High Chaparral, the oldest have just turned three. If you want to win a Derby, a Cup or even a Plate he’s the local sire who gives you the best chance, in my opinion. “I’ve also looked at broadening our profile and rather than being seen as strictly syndicating potential two year-olds, we’ve just changed a little in our direction. As we are a national syndication company I want to look at broadening the spectrum more in New South Wales, where for the past four or five years we have raced mostly in Victoria and Queensland. I’m constantly reviewing where the business is heading, I love what I do and consider myself very fortunate that my passion is indeed my profession.”