Arrowfield Stud boss John Messara has bred and raced some of the best horses in Australia and won many of the country’s biggest races.
But Shoals’ win in Saturday’s Group Two race at Randwick named for his long-time vet and close friend, the late Percy Sykes, meant more than most.
Messara and Jonathan Munz race Shoals who is trained by Lee and Anthony Freedman at Mornington in Victoria.
“It means a lot to me to win this race,” Messara said.
“Percy was my friend for a long time.”
Sykes, who died aged 93 in January 2013, was a pioneer of veterinary medicine and credited with getting the great Tulloch back to the track after a life-threatening illness.
Such was Sykes’ influence on Messara, he commissioned a statue of the vet in 2003 which has pride of place at his stud.
Shoals, who is now unbeaten from three starts, was sent out the $3.10 Luxbet favourite but showed she was still a work in progress after beating Formality ($9) by a short half head.
“She’s still green and got lost a few times in the run,” jockey Mark Zahra said.
“Just late I thought I was actually going to win easy and then she got to the front and sort of stopped and Formality had a dive at her.
“But I think she deserved it.”
Craig Williams was forced to defend his ride on Formality, saying he was reluctant to hit her with the whip because she wasn’t handling the heavy track.
“I was cuddling her as much as I could,” Williams told stewards.
“In my heart I thought if I used the whip I would have lost half a length.
“I kidded to her all the way and I think we got the best result for a horse that wasn’t handling the ground one bit.”