Mr Brightside has delivered plenty of highlights throughout his blockbuster career, but his performance in Saturday’s Gr.1 Stow Storage Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield suggested that the superstar six-year-old is still raising the bar.
A two-time winner of the Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) in Sydney, the gelding by former Highview sire Bullbars added a Melbourne major to his trophy cabinet with a tenacious and top-class Memsie victory.
Mr Brightside went into the first Group One race of the Melbourne spring as a strongly supported $2.70 favourite, having scored an emphatic win in the Gr.2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) over the same course and distance two weeks ago. But he faced a formidable assignment in Saturday’s A$750,000 feature, jumping from the extreme outside gate in a star-studded field of 14 that also featured proven Group One guns such as I Wish I Win and Alligator Blood, along with last month’s eye-catching Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) runner-up Princess Grace.
Mr Brightside’s regular rider Craig Williams had the utmost faith in his mount, moving forward out wide on the track to take up a position behind the front-running Annavisto. He settled three wide on the outside of Alligator Blood and Princess Grace.
Williams followed Alligator Blood every step of the way as that runner moved forward and swooped past Annavisto at the home turn, and Mr Brightside thrust his head in front with 200m remaining.
But the job was far from over. I Wish I Win suddenly loomed ominously on Mr Brightside’s outside, while Alligator Blood kept fighting on the inner and Princess Grace dived through along the rail. But Mr Brightside held them all off, beating Princess Grace by a long neck.
“I walked the track before the race, and I felt that it wasn’t going to be a disadvantage to sit a bit wider rather than having the rail,” Williams said. “The horse rewarded me for that decision – he was really tough. I just loved the way he stuck his head out and pinned back his ears. He felt like he was always going to hold them out.
“Thanks to Lindsay Park, the three Hayes boys (Ben, Will and JD Hayes, trainers) and the owners for giving me this opportunity. The boys are confident that the horse will continue to come on from this run, so he’s very exciting.
“He’s going to be the best miler in Australia, and if the boys want to go somewhere else with him as well, I’m sure this horse won’t disappoint them. I’ll be happy to put my saddle on wherever he goes.”
Having previously delivered a first Group One win for the partnership of Ben and JD Hayes, Mr Brightside has now done the same for the Hayes brothers as a trio, with former AFL player Will joining the partnership at the beginning of this season.
“I think we’re all pinching ourselves,” Ben Hayes said. “Will’s had his first Group One win, which is amazing. The whole team’s got a big buzz out of it. Everyone back at the farm behind the scenes has really worked hard, and this is an incredible result.
“We’ll see how he pulls up, but we’ll probably look to the Makybe Diva Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) for his next start, and hopefully he’ll improve again.”
Mr Brightside was bred by Ray Johnson in partnership with his late wife Martha. He was sold as a yearling for $22,000 via Janine Dunlop’s Phoenix Park at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale, then failed to meet his $50,000 reserve when re-offered at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale.
Later an opportunity arose for Johnson to buy him back on gavelhouse.com for just $7,750, and he finished a luckless fifth in his sole New Zealand start at Matamata for Cambridge trainer Ralph Manning. He was later sold privately to clients of the Hayes stable via Australian agent Wayne Ormond. The Kiwi-bred star has now won 13 of his 25 starts, with a further four placings and boasts prizemoney of A$8,878,427.
Meanwhile, fellow New Zealand-bred I Wish I Win lost few admirers with his close third. The Memsie was the Savabeel gelding’s first start since his sparkling victory in the Gr.1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) in April, and he remains on target for the A$20 million The Everest (1200m) on October 14. – NZ Racing Desk.