Adam Gay certainly knows what makes the heart beat.
He’d always been fascinated with the size of the legendary Phar Lap’s massive heart which weighed around 6.2 kilograms – nearly twice the weight of the average horse at 3.3 kilograms.
His interest in hearts both human and later equine became a passion of Gay’s life. He was fascinated in this sector during his medical studies which he excelled in. This led him to becoming a cardiologist.
But it wasn’t just the human heart that Dr Gay was keen to study. With the assistance of his good friend cardiac technologist Glen Barker, they began scanning horse’s hearts to see if there was any correlation with the equine ability of big-hearted horses like Phar Lap.
They wanted to know whether they could scientifically determine what made the heart tick in elite horses and if the odds could be narrowed down to picking a “good one” in determining different characteristics in the hearts of horses.
He said while doing his medical training he wondered whether anyone had thought about horse’s hearts. He grew up wondering about the correlation of Phar Lap having a large sized heart.
“I did a trial where I scanned a number of horses without knowledge of who they were.” he said.
“I started seeing certain characteristics in the better performing horses. We tried to extrapolate the information to yearlings and within a couple of years we did a few thousand yearlings. We followed their performances and worked out the common characteristics between cardiac parameters and good racehorses.”
Gay said that because he had become increasingly busy with the human heart as he launched One Heart Cardiology in 2014, he doesn’t do much of the equine heart work now.
“But my business partner Glen Barker still scans the horses routinely at the sales,” he said.
Gay said he wouldn’t buy a horse without scanning their heart, as for him it is an important element of the process.
Ironically it was the work of Gay and Barker which led to them testing the heart of a yearling by Snitzel, out of Sunset Express and recommending to Sean Buckley and Viv Oldfield to buy the colt. Little did they know that this yearling would go onto to win a Cox Plate as Shamus Award and amass $2.4 million in prizemoney and later become a sought-after sire.
“I have been scanning horse’s hearts for about 10 years with Glen Barker. We found Shamus Award for Vic Oldfield and Sean Buckley,” Gay said.
“As a thank you, after Shamus Award went to stud they gave us a serve every year. We wanted to breed a Shamus Award progeny so asked a few breeders about the mares that would be suitable.
“We bought a mare (Is it A Mosquito) specifically to go to Shamus Award following the advice we were given. Her first foal was a small filly so we elected to sell her at the Classic Sale for $45,000. She won a few races but is now retired.”
They sold the mare who was in foal to Shamus Award at the 2018 Great Sal for a modest $5,500.
At the time the mare was sold, Shamus Award had not produced a lot of good horses but has since had many successes on the track with the likes of the talented Mr Quickie.
In another twist, Gay and Barker, along with a group of friends and family now race the two year-old filly, Swats That, who collected $158,500 when she won the VOBIS Gold Rush (1000m) on debut at Bendigo’s metropolitan status meeting last Saturday.
The filly is bred by Gay and trained by Leon and Troy Corstens, by Shamus Award from Is It A Mosquito (Bel Esprit/Yes I Will).
Swats That is the second foal of Is It A Mosquito and Gay thought she was a lovely type and decided to keep her to race.
Swats That’s team of owners weren’t surprised with her win after she’d produced some impressive trial performances.
Trainers Leon and Troy Corstens had hoped that the filly would be eligible for the $1 million VOBIS Sires Showdown (1200m) at Caulfield on April 18, but Shamus Award, now standing at Victoria’s Rosemont Stud, was at the Hunter Valley when he served Swats That’s dam.
“She did a really good job,” Troy said.
“The VOBIS scheme is fantastic and makes a huge difference.’’
Corstens said he gave his owners the choice of running at Bendigo or in a stakes race in Adelaide.
“But Adam and Glen both picked Bendigo which was a very smart decision.” he said.
Corstens won the VOBIS Gold Rush at Bendigo two years ago with a filly he part owned, Thrillster, who went on to win the Sires Showdown.
He believes Swats That is every bit as good as Thrillster who is out of Rosemont’s stallion, Starspangledbanner.
Rosemont’s Anthony Mithen said Shamus Award has stood one season at his stud and is yet to have any Victorian horses on the track.
“Shamus Award is going really well and he is showing that he can get speed horses, two year-olds that can get a mile and further.
“He is a bit of bombproof option for Victorian breeders and probably interstate breeders this coming season.
“In this new world we are living in we have thoughts on a service fee for him but that will be all up in the air until we see where things settle. But I am glad that I have him in my barn.”
Mithen said that Rosemont sent 20 of their own mares to Shamus Award.
“Although we don’t own any of him, we are firm believers in him and are genuine investors in the horse. It’s good and exciting.’’