John Messara’s personal tribute to Dr Percy Sykes
John Messara writes a personal tribute to his close friend & mentor, and Arrowfield’s consultant vet, Dr Percy Sykes AM MRCVS MACVSc, who died in Sydney on Monday evening at the age of 93:
“Old dogs for the hard road and puppy dogs for the sand” was one of Percy’s favourite expressions. He used it jokingly to refer to younger, less experienced friends and associates, but when it came to horses and their well-being, we were all puppy dogs beside Percy. Such was his insight into the equine species, that he had no peer.
You don’t often cross paths with a genius in your life, but Percy was such a man in his chosen profession. I often describe him as having X-ray vision; he was capable of diagnosing a condition more accurately via telephone than the attending vet conducting the clinical examination.
When he was on the spot, his powers of observation were extraordinary. Percy would note the smallest irregularity in the condition, behaviour or gait of a horse. X-rays were just for confirmation.
Percy’s mind was open and his knowledge and experience were wide. Every case was a challenge to him and he rarely failed to make an accurate diagnosis. His style was quiet and under-stated, and he was always impeccably dressed.
Percy was a wonderful friend, always there to help me, he was incredibly loyal and diligent, and while he enjoyed having fun, his work always came first.
He built a vet practice regarded as a leader in the worldwide thoroughbred industry, he was my mentor and one of the founding pillars of Arrowfield. I learned so much from Percy, and will be forever grateful for his friendship and his wisdom.
He was the recipient of many awards, but none can do justice to the contribution Percy has made to veterinary science and to Australian racing. In my lifetime, he has no equal. I am, and always will be privileged to call him my friend.
In 2003 Arrowfield Stud commissioned sculptor Tanya Bartlett to create a statue of Dr Sykes which stands at the entrance to the Stud Office where he is remembered and acknowledged every day by staff, clients and visitors.