Dr George Martin Slate was a colourful American born at Greenpoint, Omaha in 1852 who indulged in his national (USA) sport of trotting. As an importer, owner, driver and breeder, he became well known for his importation of Huon. A pioneer of trotting in Australia, at one time he maintained his stallion Huon, a number of mares and horses at a Windsor property known as “Fairfield” (forty miles west of Sydney on Hawkesbury River). Dr Slate, a graduate of the New York College of Dentistry in 1875 made his home Sydney. Operating as a dental surgeon in the Macquarie St area, known for its medical and dentistry, he opened and ran one of the largest and best clinics in the State. One of the pioneers of modern dentistry, Dr Slate’s clients included King George V and Queen Mary plus a long line of Australian Governors General.
Extracts from “A History of Dentistry in New South Wales 1788 – 1945” (published by Australian Dental Association [New South Wales Branch]) comment on Dr Slate’s practice :
more dentists began arriving…. even from America…… Drs. Slate, Syme and Kain arrived from America to establish highly successful practices in Sydney.
through the length of Macquarie St I doubt if there were more than half a dozen brass plates bearing the ominous announcement that dental services could be obtained within. Mr Percy Pedley’s I remember well and Dr. Syme’s and Dr Slate’s…… Dt Syme and Dr Slate inaugurated American dentist as a fashionable entertainment in our midst.
G.M. Slate, D.D.S
A.J. Syme, D.D.S
Becoming an exceedingly wealthy man, he used profits from the clinic in securing a large team of trotting horses, at one time being the largest stables in Australia. A “true” enthusiast for trotting but with a temper to match, Dr Slate was often in the thick of things. Dr Slate weighed a little under ten stone, a tough and often impatient character. Managing to purchase imported mare Folly from Mr Lamont, on 24 October 1885 Dr Slate drove Folly to win all three heats of a three heat race at Sydney Driving Park. Not produced again until 1886, she finished second in one heat of a three heat event before being retired to await the arrival of Dr Slate’s stallion purchase Huon from North America.
In 1885, Dr Slate established his stud on a leased property at Mulgrave, near South Creek, Windsor prior to heading for North America in search of his foundation stallion. From Village Farm, East Aurora, near Buffalo, New York, Dr Slate purchased the trotting stallion Huon (1879 Almont Junior/Polly by Hamlin Patchen, son of George Patchen) from Cicero J Hamlin. Huon, a full brother to Belle Hamlin, was a winner at three and occasionally between ages four and six. His best time inside the 2:30 standard of T2:28¼ was set at Buffalo, New York when aged six using a high wheeled sulky. Huon descends from the U36 family of Miss Sears – Lindys Pride, Keystone Ore, Prakas and recently My High Expectations in Australia. Shipped to Australia on the Alameda, landing in Australia as the first 2:30 trotter in Australasia, Huon cost Dr Slate around £1,900. On arrival in Sydney, the “Evening News” described Huon as “a square gaiter of great and magnificent style who took a record of 2:28¼ (in America) using an old fashioned high wheeled sulky”. On the same trip, Dr Slate purchased mare Lilla G (Hambletonian Prince/Rosie) in San Francisco.
Huon served Dr Slate’s mare Folly (dam of Maud M, dam of Ribbonite 2:16.0)and a few other Mulgrave area breeders mares after his arrival in mid 1886 in Sydney. His first advertised season was in 1887 at the lofty fee of twenty guineas, obviously too high for many as Huon didn’t serve many outside mares in his first advertised season. Studmaster for Dr Slate was William Heavers who also trained and drove Dr Slate’s horses in earlier days. Dr Slate also drove many of his own horses although he also retained fellow American drivers William Starr and Frank Baldwin for this purpose.
Huon stood at Mulgrave, Windsor (a few miles northeast of Town’s Hobartville) in the next area to where Andrew Town stood Tim Whiffler at Richmond. The Macquarie region towns of Windsor and Richmond were the nursery of Australian trotting. Dr Slate became involved in a slanging match with Andrew Town’s Hobartville after he had imported trotting stallion Huon from USA in 1887. Towns recognised Huon as strong competition for his stallions (Vancleve, Honesty, Childe Harold) and the advertisements and comments made by each stud’s principal on their opposition stallion (s) would be regarded as highly defamatory today. Support came for Town as the local identity whereas Dr Slate was seen as an outsider, both American and from Sydney.
To assist Huon’s chances at stud, Dr Slate embarked on a mission to obtain suitable broodmares from California specifically Julia, Hattie Benton and Aristola, all arriving in 1888 and proving successful matrons in Australia. Dr Slate commenced racing his American imports successfully at Sydney racetracks in 1887 and in the case of his mares they raced for short periods before being served by Huon.
HUON (T2:28¼US, T2:32.0AUS) – three wins in 1887 breaking the track record in his first appearance at Sydney Showgrounds, T2:37.2, four wins in 1888 including two miles from 450 yds behind carrying thirty three pounds overweight, April 1888 FFA in 2:45.0 and driven by regular pilot American William Starr at Sydney Driving Park on 25 September 1888 reduced his own colonial record of T2:33¼TT to T2:32.0. After warming up, scribe at the time said Huon went off at a good swinging bat accompanied by a galloper, trotting the mile in 2:32.0 (first quarter 38 1/5, half 1:16 2/5, three quarters 1:54.0, mile 2:32.0).
LILLA G (T2:39.0) – four wins in 1887 (ran second to Little Dick at first meeting of reorganised Sydney Driving Park on 17 December 1887), unraced 1888, three wins 1889, all at Sydney Driving Park before retirement. Established Australian mares records for mile trotting of T2:42¾ and later T2:39.5 in 1887 at Sydney Driving Park. Dam of Huon Prince, Lady Nutwood and Narrangsett
LUCILLA (USA bred, T2:28.2) – leased by Dr Slate in April 1887 from breeder James (JA) Roberts, won two of three heat FFA and later same year served by Dr Slate’s sire Huon – 1888 foal later became Huon Junior and 1889 foal Globe, both reared on Dr Slate’s Fairfield property and although noted as being bred by Dr Slate, James Roberts was true breeder (see next article on Dr Slate and Huon for commentary on Huon Junior and Globe)
HATTIE BENTON (T3:02¼US) – in 1888 foaled Venus, raced between 1894 and 1900 winning between twenty to thirty races. Contacted by his brother from America with news of the new pneumatic sulkies success (trotting mare Nancy Hanks setting times of 2:07, 2:05, 2:04), Dr Slate was first to introduce the bike sulky into Australia with Venus, easily winning by a wide margin using one at Sydney Driving Park, Liverpool (close to Warwick Farm racecourse) on 14 May 1894. The bike (pneumatic) sulky had been in vogue in America since 1892. In 1897, Star Pointer (1889) used one becoming the first standardbred in under two minutes (1:59¼US) as an eight year old driven by D McClary at Readville Trotting Park, Boston – mile track (also scene of first 2:00 trotting mile by Lou Dillon in 1903). Dr Slate arranged with Sydney bicycle man Phizackerley to craft a crude looking sulky converted from an old fashioned high wheeler. Ridiculed initially by spectators, their tune changed immediately Dr Slate won comfortably driving Venue with the radical new sulky at Liverpool. Supplies of Frazier sulkies (see illustration) were soon on their way from America for use by trainers and owners that saw the benefit of their use. Hattie Benton was dam also of Polly Huon, a big winner in New Zealand (see next article on Dr Slate)
SILVER CLOUD (T2:38.0) – purchased from Henry McQuade, winner of twenty races from 1888 to 1897 for Dr Slate
JULIA (T2:58.5) and her colt BAYWOOD – raced by Dr Slate. Julia was dam of Juliette (among her nine CF credits is Lady Julian [raced as Julian], Australian mares mile record of 2:23.0 in 1905), Huon-le-Duc, Kaiser Huon, and Alpha, all successes on the race track and at the stud and ancestress of Recovered, Owhyette, Kentucky Gown, Taronga, Seldom Sure, Strathlachlan Andy
Establishment of and history of “Fairfield” –
1804 Harry Cox, son of William Cox Snr received a grant of land which became the future site of Fairfield
1832 William Cox Snr started building the Fairfield mansion on his son’s property 1833 Cox family took up residence
1848 Cox family sold the property to James Hale
1866 James Hale’s grandson Henry McQuade inherited it aged fourteen on the death of his grandmother Mary Hale
1880 Fairfield was leased by Benjamin Richards until 1880 when McQuade commenced residence with his wife Cecily King. McQuade in the 1880’s built up a considerable stock of mares and foals,
1888 McQuade was forced to dispose of many mares and foals at a sale held in 1888. He had earlier tasted success at Sydney Driving Park with Victorian bred mare Confusion. Several of his broodmare band would eventually end up in the possession of Dr Slate
1889 Dr Slate leased the property where he set up a trotting stud and racing stables
1893 McQuade died
Late 1890’s Dr Slate left Fairfield
1907 Fairfield sold to Percy and Robert Miller to conduct trotting breeding and racing operations with their trainer/manager who was well known horseman Peter Riddle (won four successive NSW driving premierships 1915/1918; successful in NZ with Minto Derby [AK Cup], Sheik [NZ/Otahuhu Cups], Delavan’s Quest/Orion [Otahuhu Cup]; ultimately turned his hand to gallopers including Shannon in Australia)
Early 1920’s Percy Miller moved to Kia Ora Thoroughbred Stud, Scone, NSW with Peter Riddle‘s brother Bert as manager (drove 1917 Sydney Thousand winner Maori Land). Stallions they stood included Magpie, Midstream and Delville Wood. Later Gunsynd stood at stud on this property.
Note – Fairfield House continues to be used today as a wedding venue; located in Windsor now a western suburb of Sydney.
When leasing Fairfield in 1889 Dr Slate employed George Kiduff as manager while William Haevers continued as stud master and trainer. A racetrack was developed from the rough training track allowing Huon’s progeny to be broken in and race educated. The Referee reported that “The whole property is subdivided into numerous paddocks, which are used to classify the stock and also prevent the grass from being unnecessarily used at once.” Dr Slate also stood USA stallion Doncaster (purchased in 1887) at eight guineas. Their stud fees were reduced in 1891 to eight guineas for Huon, four pound ten shillings for Doncaster and Baywood. He proved a very hospitable host at Fairfield, having guests stay over at weekends where he was resident “chef” prior to parading stallion Huon and other horses on Sundays to the assembled guests, something Dr Slate was very proud of.
In 1891 Dr Slate imported Kentucky Clay gelding Valentine from North America where he had set a trotting record of T2:22.0 at Fresno on 28 September 1888. Valentine went onto win a FFA at Moonee Valley over two miles on 4 March 1891 with Dr Slate driving. Valentine was still winning at the start of the twentieth century having won many races at Moonee Valley and Richmond in Melbourne and Brighton – Lady Robinson’s Beach and Sydney Driving Park in Sydney.
There is even a New Zealand connection embedded in the tale of Dr George Slate. Making two successful raids on New Zealand tracks with the stock of Huon during the late 1890’s/early 1900‘s, the first visit saw Dr Slate’s horses compete on the Canterbury Trotting Club’s (CTC) track at the A&P Showgrounds, Addington, a 667 yard track. Meetings were conducted here between 7 April 1888 and 17 August 1900 with the CTC paying rental to the A&P Association for use of the facilities. The club’s final meetings were held on 15 and 17 August 1900 respectively with plenty of interest due to the fourth visit of a splendid team of John Buckland horses from Australia. The team consisted of Fritz, Viva, The Heir, Sunshine, Secrecy, The Orphan, Valour, Valiant, What, Veto, Daybreak – all of whom performed well especially later on the new Addington Raceway track.
Following the conclusion of the meeting held on 17 August 1900, the Canterbury Trotting Club stopped racing and by Christmas 1900 ceased to exist as an entity having amalgamated with the Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club to form the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC). The NZMTC held its first meetings at Addington Raceway as we know it today on Monday 6 and Friday 10 November 1899.
During Dr Slate’s first visit, he drove two horses he owned Huon Prince and Sylvehue at the Christmas/New Year CTC meetings with the following results :
26 December 1899 –
Huon Prince : second in Trial Hcp, 2m, scr (£14 earned in stakes)
1 January 1900 –
Huon Prince : winner of Advance Hcp, 2m, scr (£56)
Sylvehue : winner Intermediate Hcp, 2m, scr (£70)
On the same day, another Huon mare Polly Huon won the Telegraph Hcp and the major event the initial running of the Canterbury Cup for horses ridden in saddle only (300 sovereigns), Sam Slick prevailed over Almont who was later exported to Australia where he set an Australian mile record 2:12.2TT, two mile Australasian record TT4:32.5 and world three mile record TT6:50.0 in three successive weeks.
Huon Prince would appear to have passed into NZ ownership at this time as did Sylvehue although she later returned to Dr Slate’s ownership as shown when winning for owner/driver Dr Slate during his second visit to New Zealand :
26 December 1901 –
Sylvehue : winner of Dash Hcp, NZMTC meeting at Addington, 1m, 10 second handicap, 2:30.0, walk over victory
Further details of the performances of the stock of Huon in NZ will be outlined in the next article in this series on Dr GM Slate which will contain an outline of Huon’s impact as a sire.
Economic difficulties arising from a land bust, the deaths of Dr Slate’s competitors Andrew Town and Childe Harold within two months of each other in 1889, meant that by 1894 Huon’s stud fee was down to five guineas, Baywood had died (1890) and Doncaster moved elsewhere. Dr Slate held a clearance sale on 27 January 1893 where twenty four stock consisting of broodmares with foals at foot and in foal again and young horses by Huon came under the hammer (refer table)
Dr Slate travelled Huon extensively to remote rural towns, on one occasion to Armidale’s Annual Show for exhibiting. Robert C Simpson in the Australian Trotting Record relates “that although not allowed to fast work on the rough track, Huon impressed with his style and short bursts of speed”.
Dr Slate left Fairfield in late 1890’s having sold Huon to a New Zealand breeder and quitting most of his trotting stock pouring the proceeds into the purchase of a few thoroughbreds. With many of his progeny sold to all points of the compass throughout Australasia, he was left with fewer than a dozen racehorses heading into the 20th century. Huon spent a couple of seasons at stud in New Zealand (from late 1890’s) before his death aged 21 in 1901 at Governors Bay, Lyttleton.
Dr Slate had been joined in Sydney by a fellow dentistry graduate Dr Augustus J Syme, born 1850, a native of Newark, New Jersey, working together as partners in the Macquarie St dentistry practice. They also partnered in the Huon progeny notably Juliette, Alpha, Fred N and Uranus as well as Lucknow, Mahee and Roseville winning for the partners. Earlier, Dr Slate’s imported mare Julia has been renamed from Miss Moffit in deference to Dr Syme’s wife Julia. Syme continued racing the trotters purchased/leased from Dr Slate leaving him to concentrate on his thoroughbreds. Syme joined forces with Slate having some success winning some big races of the day.
From 1902 Dr Slate began racing his remaining stock of Huon with the New South Wales Trotting Club at Forest Lodge/later Epping and ultimately Harold Park. During the years 1902 – 1911, Huon sired winners for Dr Slate included Juliette, Uranus, Huon Prince, GMS and Alpha. In 1907 Alpha as a five year old ran second to Mambrino Derby (2:46¼) at Bathurst Show with Maori King/later Blue Mountain King (2yo) third. Later that same day Mambrino Derby won the 2yo mile in 2:49½ defeating Brooklyn Chief and Maori King. Huon sired Huon Hue won for Dr Slate’s good friend William J McMillan. Dr Slate’s last standardbred raced was Owyhette (Owhyee/Juliette), winner of several races in 1910 and 1911 including December Epping Hcp and at 1910/11 Bathurst Show winning in 2:45 class over Mambrino Derby. Bred by Dr Syme and raced in partnership with Dr Slate, Owyhette was trained by Peter Riddle.
Dr Syme died in 1914 leaving his widow Julia, four boys and a devastated Dr Slate having lost his lifetime friend and colleague. Dr Slate was seldom seen at trotting meeting after Dr Syme’s death although he continued attendance at thoroughbred meetings, training his own gallopers.
Dr Slate himself died after a brief illness in early December 1922, aged 70 years at the private Lister Hospital, Darlinghurst. His funeral was held at Waverley cemetery conducted by Reverend H Ferguson. At the time of his death Dr Slate had prepared a small thoroughbred team (normally just one in training) at Kogarah including imported English galloper Niggler GB, brought over by close friend Mr R Wootton. He had success with Perseus who he sold to a Western Australian buyer towards the end of 1920 and Roseville at Sydney tracks. A very active man, he continued to work in his dentistry practice up to a week prior to of his death.
The December 6, 1922 Referee reported “Active as a man half his age to the end of this three-score years and ten, he passed away as he would have wished, painlessly’ and without lingering illness, knowing that the money and energy expended by him in founding a great trotting family had succeeded beyond his greatest expectations.”
Dr Slate was pre deceased several years earlier by Mrs Slate and survived by his only daughter Mrs Ida Tress Strahorn of Waterloo Station, Narromine who married Dr Nicholas William Strahorn in October 1917. It was noted that Dr Slate was a “simple man of sterling qualities, with a great fund of reminiscence …… beloved by all who knew him”. The foresight of Dr Slate in selecting Huon and numerous broodmares for importation from North America must not be forgotten.
Huon from limited opportunities left 32 winners (20 in Australia, 12 in New Zealand) standing at stud at Mulgrave (1887), Fairfield (1889) and New Zealand late 1890’s until his death in 1901. A number of his Australian born stock made their way to New Zealand. Thirteen of his sons were sires, who sired fifty three successful sires themselves. Huon’s mares and their daughters left countless winners with those tracing back to Rock Huon still just featuring today e.g. Elegant Rose, dam of Crackerjack (1:53.9, $134,907) and Goulburn Girl, dam of Beaver (1:52,3, $154,411), both progeny racing in 2016/7 season.
The next article in this series on Dr GM Slate will contain an outline of Huon’s impact, particularly those of his major players on the dynasty that he created. A later story will look at of interesting stories involving Dr Slate from the early days of Australian trotting.
12 July 2017
Approved By Dean Baring www.harnessbred.com
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