A TROUBLESOME shoulder injury kept Melbourne Storm’s Billy Slater sidelined for the 2016 rugby league season, but that hasn’t stopped his love for racing.
The 2011 Dally M Medallist will be a special guest at the 2016 Superior Food Services Pakenham Cup at Racing.com Park in Tynong this Saturday, 3 December.
With his rehabilitation going strongly, he has embarked on a foray into thoroughbred breeding.
“I’m busier now that I’m not playing, compared to when I am playing!“ Slater laughed.
“I’m doing a lot of rehabilitation work and seeing a physiotherapist regularly, trying to manage the recovery. I visit the club a fair bit to be around the boys and it’s great to be back in that environment.“
Recovering from a long-term injury takes a little time, and Slater decided to focus on developing a small broodmare breeding farm with big ambitions.
“We’ve got a small property in Melbourne that we’re setting up as a breeding farm, and in four or five years I hope that we can get some breeding mares and continue to grow bigger.”
The farm recently saw the birthing of a Shooting To Win foal, the first of many says a hopeful Slater.
This foal, which the family has nicknamed ’TJ’ after Slater’s two young kids Tyla and Jake, will soon be sold to a trainer and hopefully be racing within two years.
In terms of advice on breeding, Slater has a few people he can lend the ear of, not least Melbourne Storm owner Gerry Ryan, who also owns Limerick Lane Thoroughbreds.
“Gerry has had so much success and knows so much about the industry, so it’s great to be involved,“ he said.
Slater was born in North Queensland and was playing rugby league at the tender age of four. He grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals and horses.
After finishing Year 12, Slater went to work for Gai Waterhouse, a role which he says taught him a lot.
“Waking up at 3am every day to go to work and then return in the afternoon was tough, but it taught me a strong work ethic and also great discipline. I was only 16 at the time!“
His memories of Gai Waterhouse are fond.
“Gai was very disciplined. She ran her stables exactly the way she wanted them to be run. She knew everyone’s name and she was very polite, but she also expected a lot from her employees, so you needed to be committed.“
“I was always too big to realistically be a jockey,“ explained Slater. “I’m very lucky, my two passions are rugby and horse racing and I’m very lucky to be able to work in both. Had I been about 30kg lighter at 16, then maybe I could have become a jockey,“ he laughed.
The 33-year-old has his sights firmly set on making a return in 2017, but following his professional rugby league career he believes he’ll be juggling a few different roles.
“I think I’ll be doing a bit of both (rugby and breeding). I want to stay involved in the game, both in a coaching capacity and in the media too, but my broodmare business will take some of my attention too.“
Slater is looking forward to attending Pakenham Cup Day.
“Country Racing is always so much fun, and the impressive Pakenham racecourse creates a great atmosphere.“
To keep up to date with at that is happening on Pakenham Cup Day, check out www.pakenhamracing.com.au and use #SFSPakenhamCup to join in the conversation on Twitter and Instagram.

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