With another supreme performance at Randwick on Saturday, Mr Brightside earned himself a special place in the 157-year history of the A$4 million Gr.1 The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m).
The New Zealand-bred son of Bullbars won the famous handicap 12 months ago, and he returned a year later and successfully defended his crown. He became only the eighth back-to-back winner in the history of the race, and the first since fellow Kiwi-bred star Sacred Falls in 2013 and 2014.
Mr Brightside brought some of the strongest form credentials into this year’s renewal of the Doncaster, with a win in the A$5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) and a placing in the Gr.1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) from his previous two starts.
However, the five-year-old had to carry 55.5kg for his title defence at Randwick – 5.5kg more than last year – and had plenty of talented rivals lurking down at the bottom of the weights. On a heavy track that jockeys had described as seriously testing, that weight difference could have been telling.
But Mr Brightside had other ideas. After enjoying a comfortable midfield run under Zac Purton, he burst through a gap two off the rail at the top of the straight and took the race by the scruff of the neck.
Rivals lined up across the track to try to reel him in, with My Oberon getting the closest with a flying finish through the inside, but Mr Brightside fought them all off for a superb win.
“It’s not easy to win one Doncaster, and it’s very hard to win two – especially on testing ground like this,” Purton said. “All credit has got to go to the Hayes stable.
“As soon as I came into the straight, I was traveling really well. When I gave him a squeeze, he got there too quick and I had to idle him down a little bit again. He was labouring in the ground, but he’s so honest and his class got him through.”
From 23 starts, Mr Brightside has had 11 wins, four placings and more than A$8.2 million in stakes.
“What this horse did to win this race last year and then go back-to-back, it puts him in rare air,” said JD Hayes, who trains in partnership with his brother Ben.
“He’s a very special horse. We’ve known that all along, but now he’s a very special horse in his own right, doing something like that. We couldn’t be happier.”
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.
Mr Brightside was the first leg of a quick-fire stakes double for the Hayes stable with New Zealand-breds. Just 15 minutes after the Doncaster triumph, Here To Shock scored a stylish win in the Listed Golden Mile (1600m) at Bendigo.