Legendary vet Percy Sykes dies

By: Mark Mazzaglia
January 14th, 2014

Legendary vet Percy Sykes has died in a Sydney hospital aged ninety-three, leaving behind him a lifetime of veterinary work that virtually revolutionised the Australian horse racing industry.

Master trained Tommy Smith and his daughter Gai Waterhouse, above, used the services of legendary vet Percy Sykes.

Master trained Tommy Smith and his daughter Gai Waterhouse, above, used the services of legendary vet Percy Sykes. Photo by Daniel Costello.

Sykes emigrated to Australia in 1951 following the second World War and established his practice P.E. Sykes & Partners in Sydney, which became the Randwick Equine Centre and also forged a long association with Sydney’s premier trainer of thirty-three years Tommy Smith.

Sykes’ revolutionary methods were recognised throughout the industry and he was awarded the Order Of Australia in 2003 before being inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 when he was in his mid-80s.

“I never thought about being inducted; never even dreamed about it,” Sykes said.

“I suppose it’s the ultimate honour when you get to my age.”

Sykes was credited for saving the life of one of Australia’s most famous racehorses, Tulloch, who developed a viral infection after his three year old season, but was able to respond to Sykes’ treatment and after two years off the scene raced back into Australian racing folklore.

The master vet’s services were also used by many of the leading trainers including Bart Cummings, Gai Waterhouse and Jack Denham as well as being acknowledged world-wide.

Sykes was credited for developing techniques now common in equine medicine, including feed supplements, blood counts, standing castrations and even the use of penicillin.

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