John Messara joins Australian Racing Hall of Fame

John Messara was welcomed to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame by 2004 inductee, Champion trainer John Hawkes. (PHOTO: Atkins Photography)

John Messara, the founder & Chairman of Arrowfield Stud, was inducted as an Associate to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame at the 2021 ceremony presented by Racing SA in Adelaide on Friday evening. 

As a breeder, stallion-maker, racehorse owner and industry leader, he has been at the centre of almost every milestone in the transformation of Australian thoroughbred breeding & racing over the past 35 years.

But he didn’t come to the industry with the traditional advantages of practical horsemanship and an inherited farm. Instead, he arrived in Sydney as an 11-year-old immigrant and progressed to become, at 25, the youngest Member of the Sydney Stock Exchange.

Eventually, Messara’s enthusiasm for racing and breeding overtook his success as a stock-broker and in 1985 he founded Arrowfield Stud, now based on 2500 acres near Scone in the Segenhoe Valley of New South Wales.

His early interest in advancing the wider industry was evident when he assisted Colin Hayes and Prime Minister Bob Hawke to introduce new bloodstock depreciation rules.

Then, in 1989, Messara launched the career of the great breed-shaper and pioneering shuttle stallion Danehill.

It was the beginning of a bold new era for Australian breeding & racing.

It was also the start of Arrowfield’s ascendancy, producing exceptional racehorses like Danewin, Danzero, Nothin’ Leica Dane, Mentality, Weekend Hussler, Miss Finland, Alverta, Estijaab, The Autumn Sun, Shoals & Castelvecchio.

And standing Champion Sires Redoute’s Choice & Snitzel (completing a three-generation dynasty of multiple Champion Sires at Arrowfield), Flying Spur, Hussonet and Not A Single Doubt.

For more of John Messara’s story, listen to his interview with John Tapp, in April 2021:

In 1993 Messara helped to establish the Commercial Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the forerunner of Aushorse which he chaired from 2001 to 2008,  directing the global marketing of the Australian thoroughbred in support of breeders and vendors across Australia.

As President of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia in 2007-08, he negotiated sales levies to boost national and State TBA income. In the same period he led the breeding industry through the Equine Influenza crisis.

Appointed Chairman of Racing New South Wales in 2011, Messara led a five-year program of reform, near-doubling State prizemoney; strengthening integrity, governance and equine welfare; launching The Championships; and investing more than $250 million in 23 racetracks.

And from 2014 to 2016 Messara, as founding Chairman of Racing Australia, introduced much-needed changes to traceability, the Rules of Racing, wagering, whip use, equine welfare and syndication.

In 2008 Messara was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

In 2019 he became the first Australian recipient of the prestigious Longines & IFHA International Award of Merit.

A measure of pride would be a natural response to receiving national and  international honours, and now his own industry’s highest accolade, but Messara cautions against it. 

As he says in this TDN Australia & NZ profile by Jessica Owers, “I don’t think there’s time or room to be proud. If I start thinking about being proud I think, come on, don’t be stupid. There’s so much more to be done. At this stage, I’m humbled to receive the recognition, but I’m also interested in doing better.”

It’s an attitude perfectly expressed by the name of the horse that won Saturday’s John Messara Handicap at Rosehill: Achiever.

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