Arrowfield's Rich History

“When he took a half-step outside his box,” is John Messara’s recollection of the moment in late 1989 when he knew he just had to buy the horse that would re-engineer the Australian thoroughbred and transform the international bloodstock industry.

With legendary vet Dr Percy Sykes at his side, Messara took a closer look at the horse called Danehill, a big, powerful son of Danzig and Razyana bred in the United States by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Jeremy Tree for Prince Khalid Abdullah. Described by Timeform as a “high-class colt” with “a quick, fluent action”, Danehill won four of his nine starts in England, Ireland & France, including the Haydock Sprint Cup G1 and Royal Ascot Cork and Orrery S. G2.

Inbred 3 x 3 to Natalma, the colt had a stallion’s pedigree to die for, and Messara and Sykes were quick to excuse him for his only physical fault of being back at the knee. Sykes had reminded Messara that this was also a fault in the great Australian sire Star Kingdom.

In 1989 Arrowfield Stud was a relatively new player on the Australian breeding scene, but Messara was prepared to make his own way in an environment where a head for business had become as vital as a horseman’s hands. His early stallion investments reflected a willingness to look beyond Star Kingdom, whose descendants had dominated the country’s stallion ranks since his importation by Stanley Wootton in 1951. 

Arrowfield’s foundation roster was headed by champion French sire Kenmare (by Kalamoun), one of the first stallions to stand on both sides of the equator, alongside Prego (by Be My Guest) and Bellotto (by Mr. Prospector). They proved successful enough, leaving 13 Australian-bred Group 1 winners among them, but none was the game-changer Messara sought. The time was right for an infusion of fresh genetics and Arrowfield’s ambition, left-field thinking and considered risk-taking delivered it.

Messara recalls, “We identified Danzig as the Northern Dancer sire whose line was most likely to succeed in Australian conditions; he offered speed and loved grass. We then set about finding a son with high-class sprinting form on turf. Danehill filled the bill and when we saw him, we simply had to have him.”

Purchased in partnership with Coolmore Stud, Danehill was not the first dual hemisphere stallion, but the decision to shuttle him between Australia and Ireland popularised a trend that is now a standard option in stallion deals.

However, no other shuttle stallion has so far matched Danehill’s global dominance. His career tallies of 347 stakeswinners (175 SH; 172 NH) and 83 Group 1 winners (44 SH; 39 NH) are world records, and he has 149 sons and grandsons responsible for 1545 stakeswinners. Fifty-two of them have left Group One winners, notably Arrowfield’s champion sire Redoute’s Choice, Darley’s Exceed and Excel, Coolmore’s Fastnet Rock and Juddmonte’s Dansili.

Danehill’s daughters are equally valuable, with 215 stakeswinners on their collective record, most famously world champion Frankel, Danedream (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe G1) and Shocking (Melbourne Cup G1).

Arrowfield bred several of Danehill’s best early sire sons, including Commands (57 SW), Danewin (29 SW) and former Stud residents, the Golden Slipper winners Danzero (40 SW) and Flying Spur (89 SW). Of these, Flying Spur is exerting the most powerful influence in the second remove, as damsire of 42 stakeswinners and sire of Casino Prince, whose first crop includes two Group 1 winners, the outstanding colt All Too Hard and Escado.

No sooner was Arrowfield established as the Danehill fountainhead, than John Messara began to search for stallions to complement an Australian broodmare population he knew would eventually end up in a genetic corner. Indeed, last year in Australia 22% of all mares covered, and 33% of covering stallions had Danehill in their pedigrees.

In 1994, after the closure of Trans Media Park Stud, Arrowfield acquired promising sire Snippets (by Tom Fool’s grandson Lunchtime). He proved to be immensely valuable not only for his 57 stakeswinners, nine at Group 1 level, but also as the damsire of major performers by Danehill’s sons, including Arrowfield’s sensational young sire Snitzel and this year’s Golden Slipper winner Overreach.

Arrowfield’s 2003 purchase of another outcross sire, the US-bred Hussonet (by Mr. Prospector) raised the eyebrows of breeders who wondered what a champion sire of Chile could do for Australian racing. Hussonet promptly left Australian Horse of the Year Weekend Hussler and three other Group 1 winners in his first two crops. He has since added a further 24 Australian-bred stakeswinners to his record and now has a pair of stakes-siring sons, Host and Husson, at stud in Victoria and New South Wales.

The results of Arrowfield’s stallion-making work over the past three decades are evident across the Australian thoroughbred industry. Seven of the country’s current top ten sires are sons or grandsons of Danehill, one is by former Arrowfield shuttler Royal Academy and another is Lonhro, a grandson of Arrowfield-bred champion New Zealand sire Zabeel, from the Arrowfield-bred mare Shadea.

At the 2013 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale all but two of the 20 top-priced yearlings were by Danehill sons or grandsons. And more than half of this season’s Australian Group 1 races have been won by horses representing the Danehill sire-line, or from mares by stallions bred or formerly based at Arrowfield.

John Messara’s eyes are always on the future, and he rarely looks back, but then he hardly needs to. Arrowfield’s rich history is all around him.

John Messara's impressions of Royal Ascot 2013

I was asked by an Australian journalist if there were any aspects of the Royal Ascot meeting which we could adopt for Sydney racing; I found it difficult to give a response!

The fact is the Royal Week at Ascot is a spectacle of many parts. Its success lies in the sum of these parts – it’s not divisible. The pageantry of the carriage procession, the scope and beauty of the facilities, the testing nature of the track, the quality of the equine athletes, the dress and demeanour of those in attendance and the sing song after the last race, all go to making Royal Ascot an event that cannot be replicated in whole or in part. In other words, we need to create our own, equally original event in Sydney.

This year we attended as owners, again chasing that elusive Group win at the holy of holies – but it was not to be. Dismayed but not deterred, we will try again! It’s that sort of place. Foreign owners are very well treated at Ascot, and receive an extraordinary level of personal attention.

We were enthralled in this Royal Ascot renewal by a number of special moments: the joy of the Queen’s victory with Estimate in the Ascot Gold Cup, a battle royal between two top European 3YO colts in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the victory of Riposte for Lady Jane Cecil after the recent death of the master of Ascot, Sir Henry Cecil, and the sparkling performances by 2YOs War Command and Kiyoshi. These highlights placed the sport of racing, for positive reasons this time, on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

The spoils were shared widely amongst the major stables at Ascot, but the Al Thani family of Qatar was the notable emerging force, with two winners and three placegetters during the meeting.

The pre-Ascot events were also splendid, including the cocktail party at Asprey’s on the eve of the first day, and the luncheon at Highclere Stud on the Sunday. Highclere Stud was established in 1902 by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and is now operated by his great-grand-daughter Lady Carolyn Warren, her husband John Warren and their son Jake. John is Her Majesty The Queen’s bloodstock advisor, and is well known to us in Australia. He is also a director of the successful racing syndication company Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Ltd, owned and managed by Lady Carolyn’s brother, The Hon. Harry Herbert.

I found the Highclere operation to be a highly professional family affair, and the event was attended by a mix of international racing people, including a good number of Australians. A tour of Highclere Castle, a parade of horses and a great luncheon, made for a most pleasant afternoon, leading into the Royal Week.

The five days of super racing in those glorious facilities make Royal Ascot a “can’t miss” destination for enthusiasts from the United Kingdom, Europe and around the world. A total attendance for the meeting of around 300,000 is just one measure of Royal Ascot’s remarkable success.

This is surely one thing we can adopt for the Sydney Autumn – that is, the development of an unmissable week at the end of our Autumn for the racing world, akin to Royal Ascot and Melbourne Cup Week, but infused with our own heritage, style and flavour. The potential benefits of such an event for NSW racing and the state economy are very considerable indeed.

Job Opening at Arrowfield Sydney Office

Arrowfield is the leading Australian-owned thoroughbred breeding operation with a team of eight based in the Sydney Head Office. Arrowfield Stud is located near Scone in the Upper Hunter Valley and currently stands ten stallions, including the Champion Sire Redoute’s Choice.

Arrowfield is a dynamic and highly successful company and the right applicant will be joining an enthusiastic team.

We are looking for a person who is organised, intuitive, with good computer and literacy skills, great attention to detail, friendly with a good phone manner and be able to work without supervision. An interest in thoroughbred racing would be useful, but is not essential.

Your duties and responsibilities will include but are not limited to:

• Maintain office services by organising office equipment; organising mail and postal deliveries; liaising with strata management on general facility maintenance requirements

• Maintain office supplies inventory by checking stock to determine inventory level; anticipating needed supplies; placing and expediting orders for supplies; verifying receipt of supplies

• Personal Assistant to the Chairman by maintaining calendar; arranging meetings and travel

• First point of contact for Sydney office by answering phone, receiving deliveries, greeting visitors

• Assist CFO with bloodstock insurance administration

• Assist Marketing Manager with general marketing and client hospitality duties during busy periods; assisting with website administration

• Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed

Please send all applications to:

Martin Story

Chief Financial Officer

02 9909 5555

All applications will be treated confidentially.


It's an Open House for Arrowfield stallions

Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup Champion Animal Kingdom will be presented to Australian breeders for the first time at the 2013 August Stallion Open House. The 10 stallions on Arrowfield’s 2013 roster, headed by champion sire Redoute’s Choice and his extremely popular son Snitzel, will be available for inspection over four days, Thursday 22nd-Sunday 25th August. RSVPs are desired but not essential.

Arrowfield’s Operations Manager Sam Fairgray says, “We are excited to be unveiling our newest addition to the Arrowfield roster, Animal Kingdom, at the 2013 August Stallion Open House. Once again we are open for a four day period, with both morning and afternoon sessions. There will also be full parades at 9am each morning, however the stallions will be available for inspection throughout the day and the Arrowfield team will be present to discuss any mating plans. We want to make it as easy as possible for breeders and owners to inspect particular stallions at a time that suits them, in a relaxed, conversational setting.”

The Arrowfield Stallion Open House schedule is:

Thursday 22 August

  • 9.00am-12 noon including a full parade at 9.00am
  • 2.00pm-4.00pm

Friday 23 August

  • 9.00am-12 noon including a full parade at 9.00am
  • 2.00pm-4.00pm

Saturday 24 August

  • 9.00am-12 noon including a full parade at 9.00am
  • 2.00pm-4.00pm

Sunday 25 August

  • 9.00am-12 noon including a full parade at 9.00am

RSVP to:

For more information please call the Stud Office, Ph: (02) 6545 3999

Click here for driving directions to Arrowfield.

World-Class Facility, First-Class People

Driving along Gundy Road out of Scone in New South Wales, Australia the region’s dedication to thoroughbred breeding becomes steadily more evident as post-and-rail fences, stables and grazing horses begin to appear.

Visitors seeking the premier Australian-owned stud farm will have driven past much of it before they arrive at the functional iron gates and the unpretentious stone wall bearing the name of Arrowfield.

The first hint of the farm’s pre-eminence is the striking bronze statue of a stallion, placed where the driveway intersects with the road linking the Stud Office and the stallion barns. It’s the point where a first-time visitor begins to realise that when people talk about the Hunter Valley as one of the world’s three great thoroughbred nurseries, this is what they are describing.

The statue, created by sculptor Tanya Bartlett, is of Redoute’s Choice, the champion sire of 105 stakeswinners who heads the powerful Arrowfield roster that Animal Kingdom will join this southern hemisphere spring. In January this year Redoute’s Choice left Arrowfield for the first time since 2000 to court a superb book of mares at the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval in France.

Traversed by the Pages River, the Arrowfield Estate comprises 2500 acres of prime land in the fertile Segenhoe Valley, long famous as a source of great thoroughbred horses. Its combination of free-draining, undulating hill country and rich alluvial flats pastured with a mix of high production grasses provides an ideal environment for raising equine athletes. When irrigation is required, Arrowfield has substantial access to water from the huge Glenbawn dam on the eastern side of the farm.

The Estate includes Arrowfield Stud, home to the ten stallions and the Stud’s own broodmares and young horses; Bellerive Stud, the base for client-owned broodmares, foals and yearlings; and the state-of-the-art Arrowfield Training Centre occupied by young public trainer Paul Messara, who prepared the high-class sprinting mare Ortensia for Group One success in Dubai and England last year. The infrastructure and facilities at all three properties have been designed and constructed to ensure the best care of all resident horses and the safety of the people who work with them.

It is Arrowfield’s people, past and present, who have taken the Stud from an audacious vision to international success story in less than thirty years. Chief among them, in every sense of the word, is Arrowfield’s founding owner and Chairman John Messara, whose global approach to the stallion business and fierce Australian patriotism can both be explained by his Mediterranean background and his family’s emigration to Australia in the 1950s.  

A university degree in accountancy sharpened his analytical skills, and two decades as a Sydney stockbroker gave his nose for risk, value and opportunity plenty of practice. Messara was perfectly equipped and placed for the 1980s explosion of interest in bloodstock as an investment commodity.

However, Arrowfield’s long-term success rests on his understanding that the best horses and the best facilities are nothing without first-class people and strong relationships. That starts with his 40-year marriage to Kristine and the closeness of their family, sons and Paul & Michael, daughters Louise & Susanne, and daughters-in-law Alice & Lucy.

First-class senior staff provide both the high level of commitment and the constant flow of ideas that Messara expects of his management team, whose longevity is notable. The combined service of chief financial officer Martin Story, bloodstock manager Jon Freyer, operations manager Sam Fairgray, farm manager Rob Wallace and stud secretary Michelle Nichols approaches a century.

John Messara himself remains as attentive to his networks and as excited about the business, as alert to opportunities and as capable of surprise as the charismatic young stockbroker of thirty years ago. Suggestions that it’s time he started writing his autobiography are politely ignored. There are several chapters still to be lived, much less written.

Animal Kingdom's great run ends at Royal Ascot

Perfect finales are hard to achieve in life, never mind racing, and yesterday Animal Kingdom joined a long list of outstanding horses whose records miss that last triumphant flourish.

As trainer Graham Motion tweeted later, “There was no fairytale ending but no one said racing was meant to be easy. We’ve had a great run.”

Motion and Animal Kingdom’s owners were perplexed by the Dubai World Cup winner’s well below par performance in yesterday’s Queen Anne Stakes G1 at Royal Ascot.

John Messara, Chairman of Arrowfield Stud, said, “The next 24 hours may tell the story.”

“It was clear to anyone who watched the race that Animal Kingdom’s run was too bad to be true.”

“Either way it was his last run before retirement to stud.”

Before Ascot Animal Kingdom had won five and placed in five of his 11 starts from two to five, and finished first or second in five of the Group 1 races he contested: Kentucky Derby & Dubai World Cup (1st), Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Gulfstream Turf Handicap (2nd). His only previous unplaced run was in the 2011 Belmont S. G1 where he sustained an injury that kept him away from racing for several months.

The imposing chestnut entire started favourite in the Queen Anne, despite the sizeable history against him: he had raced only on flat turning tracks, a US-trained horse has never won a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot and the last Kentucky Derby winner to turn up there was Omaha in 1936.

Yet the possibility of adding a major English prize to Animal Kingdom’s triumphs in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup was an irresistible challenge for his adventurous owners, Arrowfield Stud, Darley & Team Valor International. To their credit they committed to it whole-heartedly, while recognising the immensity of the task in front of Animal Kingdom.

John Messara said, “Of course, it’s disappointing because it is so difficult to find a horse good enough to be a realistic chance of winning a Royal Ascot Group 1 and Animal Kingdom was undoubtedly good enough. So it’s a personal goal that has to stay on the bucket list for a bit longer!

“I’m very excited and proud to have Animal Kingdom join the Arrowfield roster and we all look forward to welcoming him to Australia in the Spring.”

Animal Kingdom will begin his stud career Arrowfield at a 2013 fee of $38,500 inc. GST.

Arrowfield wins Best Horse Stud Award

Well, okay, it wasn’t a Group One, or the Oscars, but the competition was certainly stiff, the talent extraordinary and the effort intense.

The annual Scone Horse Parade was held in gorgeous weather on Saturday morning and this year’s theme, ‘A Kingdom for My Horse’, could hardly have been more appropriate for Arrowfield.

Ably organized by Amy Kelly and Alice Messara, the stud staff, who will soon welcome Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom to the roster, became jungle animals for the morning.

The large crowd that turned out for the parade was greeted by 80 entries, including Arrowfield’s tiger, gorilla, giraffe, herd of gazelles and a particularly fetching lion and baby elephant, aka trainer Paul Messara and his two-year-old son Frank.

Arrowfield was judged the Best Horse Stud of the parade, an award that now sits proudly alongside Animal Kingdom’s World Cup, and the Golden Slippers won by Miss Finland & Flying Spur!

The Parade was the founding event of the Scone & Upper Hunter Horse Festival which now fills 17 days with competitions & exhibitions, fairs & fetes, parties & dinners – all celebrating the horse which has played, and continues to play a major role in the culture and economy of the Upper Hunter.

The Horse Festival concludes this week with a focus on thoroughbred breeding & racing. Arrowfield welcomes visitors to their Stallion Open House on Thursday, Friday & Saturday mornings and Sunday, and the town heads to the races for the two-day Scone Cup Carnival. Prizemoney of more than $2 million has attracted high quality entries for the $200,000 Emirates Park Scone Cup LR on Friday and six Listed Races on Saturday, including the $500,000 Inglis 3YO Guineas (R) LR and the $140,000 Arrowfield Denise’s Joy S. LR for 3YO fillies.

Click here for more information about the Arrowfield Stallion Open House.

2YO Group winner highlights Arrowfield sires

Not one, but three Arrowfield stallions were touched by the success of the Racetree-bred 2YO colt Zoustar in last weekend’s BRC Sires’ Produce S. G2.

Firstly, he’s by Northern Meteor, whose half-sister Comical Smile is the dam of sensational colt Smart Missile, who is proving as popular with breeders this year as in 2012.

Secondly, Northern Meteor is a son of Encosta de Lago – like 2YO Group 1 winner Manhattan Rain whose first crop yearlings sold up to $260,000 and will appear as 2YOs next season.

And finally, Zoustar’s dam Zouzou is a winning daughter of champion sire Redoute’s Choice. Still building his own record and already well-established as a sire of sires, Redoute’s Choice has made significant progress as a broodmare sire this season, with 8 stakeswinners and $5.5 million prizemoney in Australia.

Zoustar, unbeaten in 3 starts from the Chris Waller stable, now has a chance to become the second Group 1 winner, after Sacred Falls, from a Redoute’s Choice mare. That will come in the $400,000 J.J. Atkins over 1600 metres at Eagle Farm on 8 June.

Animal Kingdom's first look at Ascot

Animal Kingdom (pictured) had his first look at Ascot on Wednesday morning when he galloped on the famous mile course which will be the stage for the Queen Anne S. G1 on 18 June.

US jockey John Velazquez, who rode the son of Leroidesanimaux in his 2011 Kentucky Derby victory, flew in to join Animal Kingdom in the dress rehearsal of the full routine they will experience in just under three weeks’ time.

With owners Barry Irwin of Team Valor and John Messara of Arrowfield Stud in attendance, Animal Kingdom cantered down to beyond the five-furlong marker before an easy gallop back for a furlong or so. He then moved into his serious work with his lead horse from David Lanigan’s yard, where he has been based since arriving in England after winning the Dubai World Cup on 30 March.

Animal Kingdom stretched out in the last couple of furlongs and completed the gallop strongly, then fly-jumped just after the post.

“It was an awkward moment but thankfully nothing happened,” said Velazquez. “He just saw the line across the wire and tried to jump it.”

Velazquez, who rode two winners for US trainer Wesley Ward at Royal Ascot in 2009, was otherwise delighted with Animal Kingdom’s effort.

“It was nice to have a work on the track and see where he’s going to run. I think he did it very good today.

Trainer Graham Motion rode a hack down to the start of the gallop before following Animal Kingdom back in front of the empty stands.

“I’m satisfied with how it went,” said Motion. “Johnny seems really pleased with him.

“For us it was very soft out there and Johnny felt he handled it great, though I didn’t think it would be a problem because this horse handles everything that’s thrown at him and he’s bred to handle soft grass. Normally at home we’d work five furlongs but with the soft ground I didn’t want to step it up until four furlongs.”

Motion, who returned to the States on Wednesday evening, will be back in Lambourn on Saturday week to oversee Animal Kingdom’s final Ascot preparations.

“I almost hate to say it because we’ve still got a few weeks to go, but it has gone really well so far,” he added. “This was an important workout – he’ll probably have two more works now, an easier work next week and another one the week after that.”

Redoute's Choice & son shine at Eagle Farm

For every challenge that brilliant young sire Snitzel lays down, his champion sire Redoute’s Choice has a quick response.

So it proved again at Eagle Farm yesterday. Snitzel took his Australian season earnings beyond $6 million with a Group 2 quinella by Sizzling and Dances On Stars in the $350,000 BRC Queensland Guineas 1400m G2.

Two races later Redoute’s Choice posted his 20th individual stakeswinner for the season when Sheikh Mohammed’s 4YO home-bred colt Galah prevailed in the $175,000 BRC QTC Cup 1300m G2.

Sizzling, bred by John & Trish Muir’s Milburn Creek Thoroughbred Stud, fought hard to hold off Dances on Stars by a long neck and assert the class he also displayed in the T.J. Smith S. G1 and two other Group wins as a 2YO.

Sizzling has returned more than $1.2 million on the $260,000 that agent John Foote paid for him on behalf of David & Diane Devine and partners at the 2011 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale. His dam Admirelle (by General Nediym) has a rising 2YO filly by Flying Spur and is once again in foal to Snitzel.

Sizzling, one of Snitzel’s 11 stakeswinners this season, is now the favourite for next Saturday’s $1.3 million BRC Stradbroke Handicap G1.

Galah’s last-stride victory in the QTC Cup was his second Group win and boosted his career prizemoney to $520,300. Trainer Peter Snowden indicated that the 4YO’s next start was likely to be in the 1400-metre Glasshouse Handicap LR at the Sunshine Coast on 29 June.