When Phoenix Thoroughbreds boss Amer Abdulaziz was asked to name a horse in tribute to Gabrielle Harris – an inspirational influence to his staff in life and in her brave battle with ovarian cancer – he was determined to make sure he found a "special" filly fitting of the tribute.
It was September 2018 and Harris had finally succumbed to the disease, but not before she had touched thousands and raised awareness for ovarian cancer through articles and regular blogs detailing her experience.
Throughout her life the Englishwoman and mother of two had left an indelible mark on those she met with a joie de vivre, distinctive laugh and presence that filled any room she walked into.
So when Phoenix Thoroughbreds lawyer Teresa Starr approached her boss with the idea of naming a horse in tribute to her close friend "Gaby", he agonised over the decision.
"There is no doubt about it, Gabrielle was a special person, so we had to find a special horse," Abdulaziz told The Age.
"That's why we waited for the right horse. It's no small thing to name a horse after somebody that is so loved."
There were plenty of horses to choose from – the Dubai-based thoroughbred investment group has spent more than $25 million on horses in America, Europe, Dubai and Australia.
Abdulaziz eventually chose a $600,000 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale purchase, a filly that was showing something special in the mornings with trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, naming her Loving Gaby.
"The day Amer told me which horse he had chosen happened to be my birthday and he told me, 'She will be the best filly in Australia' – and it turns out he might end up being right, she is special," Starr said.
Starr remembers Harris as somebody who always made a grand entrance – "When you walk into a room everybody knew she was there" – and Loving Gaby certainly made her presence felt in her first racetrack appearance.
Thrown straight into the deep end on debut, Loving Gaby announced herself as a future star with a win in the group 3 Chairman's Stakes.
"A month before that race there was some debate whether to go to a maiden or a group race, but we thought we had something special and the way she won showed we have a very professional horse. But most of all it was a very emotional win," Abdulaziz said.
Loving Gaby was a luckless sixth in the group 1 Blue Diamond, but a fast-finishing fourth after racing wide in the Golden Slipper last time out signalled that 1400 mRead More – Source