Maine Chance Farms’ stud manager, John Slade, was a speaker at the Summerhill Winter Workshop held at the stud farm’s renowned School Of Excellence this week, a few days after Maine Chance likely achieved a world first by breeding the one-two-three of the country’s premier race, the Vodacom Durban July. Furthermore, all of Power King, Punta Arenas and Tellina were by Maine Chance Farms’ champion stallion, Silvano.
— David Thiselton

John Slade has sometimes been driven to distraction by trainers who have pushed progeny of Silvano too early and by others who have given up on them too soon. He emphasised that they needed time and the dividends would then be reaped. All of Power King (four-year-old), Punta Arenas (six-year-old) and Tellina (four-year-old) have proved his point.

Slade admitted that delving deep into pedigrees to discover such elements as genetic siblings was usually above his head and he preferred a less scientific approach. He takes note of obvious nicks but a lot of his mating selections were simply based on it "feeling right". He is unmistakably a fine horseman and quickly learns which types of mares suit a particular stallion.

However, even a farm as professional as Maine Chance can make mistakes and probably their most famous one, was when a particularly meticulous breeder sent two mares to be covered by Victory Moon and Silvano respectively. Slade knew well that on conformation the "scrawny" mare would suit Victory Moon and the "big" mare would suit Silvano. This coincided with the breeder's reams of notes explaining why Victory Moon and Silvano would be perfect matches for her respective mares. But just after the first mating was completed, Slade suddenly realised that they had somehow got the mares mixed up. The mare was soon shown to be in foal, so the error could not be rectified. For some two years the breeder was unable to forgive Slade. In an amazing turn of events though, the Silvano foal turned out to be Vodacom Durban July winner, Heavy Metal.

John, like many breeders, has his own ideas on conformation. He is not too bothered by "offset knees". He explained a trip to a game park will show that all impala have a knock knee look, meaning the knee can support the bodyweight from underneath. In his opinion an offset knee is often achieving the same thing. However, he regarded back legs in a straight line to be of importance. He concluded this section by saying, perhaps only slightly tongue in cheek, that due to all the power a horse with perfectly conformed hindquarters generated, the front legs would be going so fast, they would hardly touch the ground.

Slade regarded Maine Chance's racing manager, Justin Vermaak, as a valuable asset to the farm, as he is very much in touch with the modern world and is a dynamic type of a person, being more of a people's person than John himself.

Slade will soon be retiring and will be replaced by Tim Bootsma, who is currently stud manager at Highlands Farm Stud.

David Thiselton
Silvano (p)