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.