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Payten, Thomas (Tom) (1855–1920)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Thomas Payten (1855-1920), horse-trainer, was born on 5 April 1855 at Campbelltown, New South Wales, second of twelve children of Irish parents Martin Payton and his wife Mary, née Connor. Brought up on his father's farm at Menangle, in 1876 he joined Michael Fennelly, trainer for James White, owner of the nearby Kirkham stud, and by 1881 was foreman of the famous Newmarket stables at Randwick, Sydney. At Waverley he married Jane Renwick (d.1915) on 8 June that year.

On Fennelly's death in July 1887 White appointed Payten his trainer. At the 1888 autumn meeting in Melbourne he won nine races with Tom Hales in the saddle, including the Victoria Racing Club St Leger with Abercorn (who later won the Australian Jockey Club Derby, St Leger and Metropolitan). Other winners he trained for White included Dreadnought (Victoria Derby) and Trident who both won the two St Legers and the Australian Cup.

When White sold his horses in April 1890 Payten bought the Newmarket stables and joined a syndicate to buy the Kirkham yearlings, which they raced as 'Mr. J. B. Clark'; despite some good horses such as Camboola, a dual Derby winner, and Stromboli, the venture folded about 1896. However, new patrons included (Sir) Adrian Knox and (Sir) Colin Stephen, future chairmen of the A.J.C., and Agar Wynne. Payten went in for bloodstock breeding and bought a property, Alfalfa, near Canowindra. He bred and raced Dewey, winner of the 1899 Caulfield Cup. Later he was in partnership with James Thompson (and by 1920 with Thompson Bros).

The cathedral-like Newmarket stables, a timber and iron building some 200 feet (61 m) long, lit and ventilated by a clerestory, was frequented by followers of the turf such as Nat Gould, who gathered 'copy' there. Writing as 'Verax' in the Referee, he described Payten's Newmarket house: 'a beau ideal trainer's home, surrounded as it is by large flower and kitchen gardens, and every sign of domesticity, in the shape of poultry; … a quiet cow; the children's pony, dogs large and small'. In 1906 with John Inglis, of William Inglis & Son, Payten made Newmarket the headquarters of Sydney's annual yearling sales.

A 'wonderfully knowledgeable and skilful man', Payten was especially successful with two-year-olds. He was brimful 'of a dry humour' and a great practical joker, especially with 'his friend (and turf rival)', James Scobie. With a neat, dark beard and 'tall, slightly stooped figure' that hardly changed over the years, Payten was unmistakable.

A devout and active Catholic layman, he was a generous subscriber to Church charities and a vice-president of the Randwick conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. In poor health he sold Newmarket to William Inglis & Son in 1918, but built new stables in Botany Road, Randwick. Survived by five sons and three daughters, Payten died of heart disease on 5 November 1920 at his Randwick home and was buried in Long Bay cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £23,285.

Payten trained at least 200 winners of fully 550 races, including 5 A.J.C. and 4 Victoria Derbys, 4 A.J.C. and 5 V.R.C. St Legers, and 3 Sydney cups. However, he never managed to win a Melbourne Cup: although Abercorn was not started in the 1889 cup, Payten always maintained that he 'was a better stayer than Carbine. He could go further, at top speed, than any other horse I have known'.

Payten's third son Bayly William Renwick (1896-1948), horse-trainer, was born on 12 February 1896 in Sydney. He inherited the Botany Road stables in 1920, retaining most of his father's patrons. In 1927 he recognized the horsemanship of 'Darby' Munro, who thereafter rode for the stable. Although Payten was leading trainer in Sydney for most of the 1940s, the major classic races and big handicaps eluded him. Survived by his wife, Dorothy Bernadine, née Tier, and by two daughters, he died on 9 September 1948.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Gould, On and Off the Turf in Australia (Lond, 1895)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Nov 1920
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 11 Mar 1893, 2 Nov 1895, 4 Nov 1899, 31 May 1919
  • Referee (Sydney), 29 Aug 1894, 10 Nov 1920
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Nov 1920, 2 July 1940, 31 July 1941, 29 July 1944, 10 Sept 1948
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 29 Dec 1974, 16 Mar 1975, 17 Apr 1977
  • copy of undated article on Payten from Cowell's Racing Digest (in ADB file).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Payten, Thomas (Tom) (1855–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/payten-thomas-tom-7992/text13923, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 11 December 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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