gavelhouse.com graduate Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars) has added the Gr.2 Clamms Seafood Feehan Stakes (1600m) to his flawless start to the 2022-23 season, casting four rivals aside by four and a half lengths at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The son of Bullbars was a breakout star of last season with six wins, culminating in the Gr.1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) during The Championships at Randwick in April. In his first appearance since then, the five-year-old gelding kicked off his new preparation on a winning note in the Gr.2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 13.
Mr Brightside was even more impressive second-up on Saturday, cruising around behind the front-running Earlswood (Pivotal) before striding up alongside that rival with 600m to run.
The $1.65 favourite took command at the top of the home straight, powering away to score with ease in the hands of jockey Craig Williams.
Fellow Kiwi-bred Inspirational Girl (NZ) (Reliable Man) did her best work late to run into second, four and a half lengths adrift of the super-impressive winner.
“That’s the best win he’s done to date,” said Ben Hayes, who trains in partnership with his brother JD. “He’s only going to improve with the run. As we know, the further he gets into the preparation, the better he gets. He’ll put his hand up for the Cox Plate (Gr.1, 2040m).
“He was strong through the line there and he hit the line and didn’t stop. He beat a good field very easily and I think the sky’s the limit.”
Mr Brightside’s performance also made a highly favourable impression on Williams, who has been aboard for all of his last 13 starts including nine victories.
“He had the run under his belt leading into this, he’s done nothing but please the stable, he’s come back a weight-for-age horse and he’d previously won at The Valley, so he ticked a lot of boxes for today’s race,” Williams said. “But the sheer performance that he gave me today, and the feeling that he gave me, shows he’s on target for whatever the boys choose to do with him.
“Winning a race like the Doncaster, a pinnacle of handicaps around Australia, year after year these horses have made the next step to weight-for-age, where there’s nowhere to hide. There is no handicap, and they’re on their weight due to their age and their sex, and you have to make that next step. You can see that he clearly has.
“You could see his mannerisms in the gates, he’s getting better every time and he’s just doing so many things right, but then his performance just shows the calibre of horse that he is. The impressive part is there’s still more to come for this preparation.
“They’ve got a couple of options from here, they are lovely options to have, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”
From a total of 15 starts, Mr Brightside has now recorded nine wins and two placings, earning more than A$2.9 million in stakes.
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.
“I want to thank Wayne Ormond – we wouldn’t be standing here with a horse of this calibre if he didn’t help us find him in New Zealand,” JD Hayes said. “He’s just a special horse for us. I’m pretty sure that wherever we point him, he’ll be competitive.”
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 online auction gavelhouse.com and despite being aware the horse had a few tricks, Johnson jumped at the opportunity to buy back in.
Out of the Tavistock mare Lilahjay (NZ), Mr Brightside is a half-brother to Will Power (NZ) (Power), an eight-time winner in Hong Kong.
Lilahjay is in turn out of the Keeper mare Keepable (NZ), a half-sister to multiple Group One winner Foxwood (NZ) (Centaine), who is the dam of Group Three winner Rockwood (Rock of Gibraltar). She has a yearling filly by Darci Brahma. – NZ Racing News