Naming a racehorse is not always an easy task, and as we’ve seen over the years, there are many approaches to it. You can go down the most traditional route and use a smart wordplay based on the thoroughbred’s breeding. There is, of course, the novelty route with some attempts at humour more effective than others. British actor Oliver Reed’s ‘Gorn Myson’ comes to mind as one of the more successful offerings, named as such just so the star of stage and screen could hear commentator Sir Peter O’Sullivan utter a phrase that would otherwise not pass the great man’s lips.
But every now and again a horse gets its name for a more poignant reason, to honour a lost friend and loved one and that is the case with Blue Diamond Stakes favourite Loving Gaby. What follows here is an undoubtedly sad story, but also an inspirational tale of a lady so brave that even when faced with the bleakest of outlooks found the courage to put her family and friends first. We urge you to keep reading as we tell you how a lady called Gabrielle Harris touched so many lives and ended up with an equine tribute.
To fill you in on why one of Australia’s leading juveniles carries her name we must first introduce you to Phoenix Thoroughbred’s Lawyer Teresa Starr, who’s friendship with “Gabs” would ultimately lead to the filly being named Loving Gaby. In fact, if you’ve been watching the exploits of Phoenix Ladies at Meydan over the past few months, you may already have a vague idea of who Teresa is. Always bedecked in a smart waistcoat she was on hand to receive the prizes won by Walking Thunder and Superior at the start of their careers.
“Gabrielle was one of my best friends and truly an incredible person.” Explains Teresa with great warmth. “She was so funny, warm, generous, kind and great fun. She had great style and fantastic presence. She also had one of those laughs that was so infectious you couldn’t help but laugh with her, and she always looked for the good in everyone. Now that probably sounds like something you would say about anyone who has passed; however, Gabrielle was like no other.”
Gabrielle died on the 5th September 2018 after several battles with Ovarian cancer. She’s left behind many of those who loved her and have described her as “Truly the most beautiful human being both inside and out.” We can add ‘courageous’ to that list as well given when hearing the news that her illness had returned and knowing that her time was probably limited she set about making sure her family would be well set for the future. That immediate family included her husband Simon, two children Tabitha, and Jo-Jo in addition to step-children Zoe and Sam. With the children’s best interests in mind, the much-loved family home was sold to fund a boarding school where the children could adapt to life without their parents being on hand 24/7. A smaller house was purchased near the school so they could come home when they needed to and at weekends. Gabrielle’s mother, Dell, also sold her beautiful home and moved to be close to the family. The plan worked. Although it was initially hard for Jo-Jo, who was only around ten he soon began to love the school and both he and Tabitha, then around 13, started to become a little bit more independent.
“It was hard on Gabrielle to be separated from her children,” remembers Teresa “but she knew that in the long run, this would be the best thing for them and easier for them to manage when she had gone. That was her all over, always thinking of others.”
That last point is reflected in the fact she organised a wonderful Christmas for the Children even though she knew she wouldn’t be a part of it.
This, of course, is not all to say she was a complete saint. Friends report she had a very “playful side” and was often the last one on the dance floor at the fabulous parties she liked to host. This side of her personality was reflected at her funeral when she made some very unusual requests as Teresa recalls.
“Gabs’ funeral was packed out, standing room only and I met people that she had only known for a short while, but they were just as enamored and felt blessed to have known her; that she had been an inspiration to them. She arranged the most incredible funeral and insisted my husband Elliott gave part of the Eulogy on the proviso he had them crying with laughter in the pews. I am pleased to say he did her proud! We also sang Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life at the end of the Eulogy while she made sure the mourners left with a smile on their faces when the coffin was taken from the Church to Marvin Gayes ‘Let’s Get It On.’ It was very Gabrielle!”
So, on to how Loving Gaby got her moniker. The day after her friend passed Teresa spoke to Phoenix Thoroughbreds head of investor relations Pamela Cordina to see if a horse could carry Gabrielle’s name. On hearing this, Phoenix CEO Amer Abdulaziz, along with Pamela, wanted to make sure they found a good filly, one worthy of such a tribute and took some time in sourcing the right thoroughbred. Eventually, they found the daughter of I Am Invincible.
“I remember it clearly when I heard they found a horse.” said Teresa “It was my Birthday, and Amer sent me a message to say that he had found one of the best fillies in Australia and that I had my wish as she was to be called Loving Gaby after my friend.”
What’s in a name? Sometimes it’s just a name, but other times it’s the happy memories a person who lit up the world around them as in the case here. Loving Gaby is, so far, proving worthy of her name and she will continue to represent more than just a racehorse to those who were lucky enough to know Gabrielle Harris.