Eltham local Rod White didn’t realise it at the time, but the day he went to play golf with good friend Damien Lee, was a day that would change his life forever. Despite always having a strong interest racing, White had never entered the realm of horse ownership until he saw a video of a young New Zealand horse called Mr Brightside. Unbeknownst to him and all his fellow owners, his first ever horse was to become a star.
The six-year-old gelding, trained by Linday Park’s Ben, JD and Will Hayes, has quickly become one of Australia’s top competitors. His impressive winning record includes the 2023 All-Star Mile, the 2022 and 2023 Group 1 Doncaster Mile and, as of Saturday, the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).
“Damien and I had been talking about getting a horse for a while and once we got serious, we looked for about two months,” White said.
“When we saw this video from Lindsay Park, it took us about 90 seconds to realise that’s the horse we wanted. Unfortunately, when we rang back, he’d been completely sold, but then someone pulled out and we got the last share. Let’s just say I never in a million years have dreamt that a golf game would turn into this.
“I was really convinced when I watched him in that video that he was ready to go and ready to race and he hasn’t let me down.
“Of course, you never know at what level or how they’re going to go, but off the track he’s just such a laid-back horse with a beautiful soul and nothing phases him; but when you get him out on the track, he just wants to win.”
Both Mr White and Mr Lee were quick to reinforce the value of horse ownership in Victoria and highlight the genuine experiences they have been a part of.
“The most wonderful thing about Victorian racing are the owner privileges that you receive and it doesn’t matter whether you own one, five or 50% of a horse, the experiences that you get and the opportunities it provides are just wonderful,” Lee said.
“To be able to share your ownership journey with family and friends and to further engage more people in the sport and the hobby, it’s just great.”
Mr White shared the same sentiments.
“You get lots out of it and the friendships and connections that you make and the experiences that you share are fantastic. We, as Mr Brightside’s owners, regularly meet up when he’s racing and just have so much fun together and have had some really special days.”
Fellow owner Jennifer Evans who has recently moved to Thailand to open a restaurant never misses the chance to watch Mr Brightside race.
“No matter what I’m doing or where I am or even if I’m working, I watch him every time and the Killers song ‘Mr Brightside’ gets played at least four times a day in the restaurant,” she said.
“The experience of horse ownership, particularly with a horse like him is very enjoyable to be a part of and it’s such a good group of owners.”
Ms Evans, who is one of three female owners of Mr Brightside, was particularly encouraging of other women signing up as owners, whether as individuals or in a syndicate.
“I sort of fell into it when I married my husband Wayne, but now that I’ve been around it so much, I can see it’s definitely not just a guy’s sport. It’s been so eye opening and amazing to see what it does for women and the experiences they can have.”
Following his strong win in the Memsie Stakes, Mr Brightside is now expected to run in the upcoming Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington in two weeks’ time.