Brothers Ben and JD Hayes are hoping to extend their family’s great record in the G.1 Cox Plate (2040m) when the pair line-up Mr Brightside in the A$5 million race at The Valley on Saturday.
Their grandfather Colin Hayes won back-to-back Cox Plates in 1978 and 79 with So Called and Dulcify, before winning a third in 1989 with Almaarad. Their father, David, won the race a year later with Better Loosen Up and won the time-honoured race once more with Fields of Omagh in 2006.
“Lindsay Park has won a lot of Cox Plates and to be a third-generation trainer, with JD, and my whole family behind me, it would be the biggest thing we have done to date,” Ben Hayes said.
Mr Brightside will jump from barrier 11 on Saturday and with the rain in the forecast ahead of the weekend, Hayes is comfortable with that alley.
“It is going to be interesting because there is going to be rain into the meeting,” he said.
“It is going to be the 15th race – they are going to race on Friday and Saturday, so they might be coming down the middle of the track by then.
“I don’t think 11 is bad. We have got Alligator Blood outside of us, who will roll forward. There are a couple inside of us that could roll forward. We could end up in a three-wide line in a lovely spot.
“We love wet tracks, so I am praying we get plenty of rain.”
Mr Brightside has won both of his starts at The Valley, including the Gr.2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) in September, and Hayes believes his charge will again relish the unique city circuit.
“He has got a great record. Mr Brightside hasn’t done anything wrong. He was very impressive here, he won by 4-1/2 lengths (in the Feehan),” Hayes said.
“He really had a good turn of foot on the corner, and I think he really accelerates off it.
“Everyone saw that this morning. He was very lazy down the back and when Craig (Williams. Jockey) asked him to go he picked up the bit really quickly and ran home in 24.1 seconds. We couldn’t be any happier with the way he is going.”
Mr Brightside ran fourth in the Gr.1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) last start, pleasing his trainers following his fifth-placed run in the Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m).
“I think he put the writing on the wall last start,” Hayes said. “He was running really strong through the line and not too far off probably the top three in betting. We are very hopeful.
“The way our horse has trained on, the way he handles The Valley, he doesn’t mind wet tracks – I can see him being a genuine top three chance.”
The Kiwi import was originally trained by Ralph Manning in Cambridge, for whom he ran a luckless fifth in his sole New Zealand start at Matamata before being sold privately to clients of the Hayes stable via Australian agent Wayne Ormond.
Manning and good friends Shaun Dromgool and Ray Johnson purchased Mr Brightside as an unraced two-year-old off gavelhouse.com for just $7,750, with some insight into the youngster.
Johnson, with his late wife Martha, had bred and sold the son of Bullbars as a yearling at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale for $22,000 via Janine Dunlop’s Phoenix Park before he had failed to meet his $50,000 reserve when re-offered at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale.
Later an opportunity arose to buy him back off gavelhouse.com and despite being aware the horse had a few tricks, Johnson jumped at the opportunity to buy back in.