IN Racing
Mr Brightside adds Futurity to stunning season
“I think this performance was better than the Orr, which was a gruelling race. He was more dominant today."
NZ Racing Desk | February 25, 2024
Mr Brightside brought up his sixth Group One with an impressive win in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield. Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

Megastar Mr Brightside added a sixth Group One trophy to his collection with another breathtaking performance in Saturday’s A$750,000 Lamaro’s Hotel Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.

Four of those six Group One triumphs have come this season alone, where the New Zealand-bred’s eight starts as a six-year-old have produced five brilliant wins and three second placings.

After kicking off his season with wins in the Gr.2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m), Gr.1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) and Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m), Mr Brightside was runner-up behind Fangirl in the Gr.1 King Charles III Stakes (1600m), a desperately close second to Romantic Warrior in the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m), and second behind Pride Of Jenni in the Gr.1 Champions Mile (1600m).

Mr Brightside returned to action with a stunning performance to get up off the canvas and win the Gr.1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m) on February 10, and he lined up over the same course and distance on Saturday and showed his champion qualities yet again.

With his regular partner Craig Williams again in the saddle, Mr Brightside took up a position in fifth as Buffalo River threw down the gauntlet and opened up a huge lead through the middle stages of the race.

Buffalo River was still well clear coming around the home turn, but Williams brought Mr Brightside out into clear air and let him rip. He swept past Buffalo River with 150m remaining and powered clear to win by a length and a half.

“You can call him a champion now without using that word too loosely,” Williams said. “He’s an amazing thoroughbred. He just keeps getting the job done at the top level.

“I’ve got so much faith and confidence in him, and it’s easy to have that confidence when you see his record and know what he can do.

“We’re all putting Mr Brightside under pressure, but he’s just an amazing horse. He’s a great athlete, a winner and a pleasure to ride.

“When he’s that good, you just naturally have that confidence in him and the people around him. He’s phenomenal.

“I think this performance was better than the Orr, which was a gruelling race. He was more dominant today.

“I’m just very grateful. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of this horse’s development, and we’re all reaping the rewards from the hard work that he does.

“How can you knock him? He’s feared by his rivals. I guess I feel a bit like Max Verstappen, just jumping on him and spinning him around the track.

“A lot of people are getting behind Mr Brightside now, and even opposition trainers were wishing me good luck today, because they like to see good horses go around. So, Mr Brightside, you’re a champion.”

Mr Brightside has now earned more than $12 million in a career that continues to astonish his trainers, Lindsay Park’s Ben, Will and JD Hayes.

“He’s well and truly in the realm of the word ‘champion’ now,” Will Hayes said. “It’s so humbling every time we’re the ones that get to put a saddle on him, because when he can come out and run these sorts of races, you’re just gobsmacked every time.

“Kudos to Celine Gaudray on Buffalo River – those were great tactics that made everyone think. I’d love to hear what Craig was thinking during that part of the race.

“For this horse to be able to absorb such high mid-race pressure, kick off and then run such a strong final 200m is just champion quality. It’s awesome.”

Mr Brightside will get the opportunity to boost his earnings even more in the A$4 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Caulfield on March 16, for which he is now a $2.20 favourite.

A son of the former Highview Stud stallion Bullbars, Mr Brightside is out of the Tavistock mare Lilahjay, who is also the dam of eight-time Hong Kong winner Will Power.

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.

An opportunity later arose for Johnson to buy him back on for just $7,750, in conjunction with Cambridge trainer Ralph Manning and good friend Shaun Dromgool.

Mr Brightside finished a luckless fifth in his sole New Zealand start at Matamata for Manning, having previously won a trial. He was subsequently sold privately to clients of the Hayes stable via Australian agent Wayne Ormond. The Kiwi-bred star has now won 16 of his 31 starts, with a further seven placings and prize-money of A$12,377,752.

Mr Brightside Gr.1 Futurity Stakes Craig Williams ben will & jd hayes Lindsay Park Racing Bullbars Phoenix Park