By Julieanne Horsman
From the day Trevor Dewhurst bought his brother-in-law Brian Connell a share in a racehorse, it became the number one thing they talked about.
They spent hours imagining the pride of seeing their names in the race book, their nerves as the filly cantered out to the barriers for her first start and the pure joy they’d feel when she crossed the line a winner, hopefully.
But in the back of Trevor’s mind was the reality Brian may never get to experience that day at the track they looked forward to.
In September 2015, Brian was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease – an incurable condition which causes paralysis and eventually death. The average life expectancy from the day of diagnosis is two years. “It was absolutely devastating,” Brian’s sister and Trevor’s wife, Leanne Dewhurst said. “He went downhill so quickly and was confined to a wheel chair within months, but he is intellectually disabled with the mind of ten-year-old so he couldn’t fully understand what was happening to him.”
Brian has been a horse racing fan for most of his life and up until late 2015, was a regular at Thoroughbred Park.
“Horse racing captivated his attention from when he was a boy,” Leanne said.
“He loved flicking through the race book and when the races were on he didn’t want to be interrupted.”
“Trevor would often take him to the races in Sydney or out in the country and he would come back beaming.”
It wasn’t long after Brian’s MND diagnosis that Trevor, with the support of Leanne, made the decision to buy Brian a share in a racehorse.
Brian’s favourite trainer of all time is Barbara Joseph so naturally Trevor went to her and co-trainer Paul Jones and picked out a Smart Missile x Lady Linguist filly.
“Brian would see Barb at the races all the time and she’d make a fuss of him and he’d feel special,” Leanne said.
“She gave him a hat once and he didn’t want to take it off.”
Trevor and Leanne took Brian to meet his new filly at the Joseph Jones Racing stables. They were nervous about how the horse would react to Brian but within seconds their fears were allayed.
As if she was already familiar with Brian, the horse strolled over and started gently nuzzling his neck.
“Brian was smiling and laughing, it was just so lovely to see them click,” Barbara Joseph said.
“Everyone who was there looked at each other and knew it was a special moment and we all suddenly got something in our eyes,” Barbara said. They decided then and there to name the horse Brian’s Lass in honour of her favourite owner.
“Barbara and Paul have gone above and beyond for Brian and we can’t thank them enough,” Leanne said.
“One day when he was really unwell they even took the horse to visit Brian at his home.
“The look on Brian’s face when we wheeled him outside to see Paul and the horse standing in the driveway was priceless.”
Today Brian’s Lass will make her debut in the Wicked Secrets Wines Maiden Handicap (1210m) at Moruya.
Trainer Barbara Joseph admits Brian’s Lass is a bit of an outside chance, especially given she will have to overcome barrier 11, but she’s happy with where the horse is at.
“She had a good trial the other day and I will be happy as long as she is competitive,” Barbara said.
“I’d like to see her running in 4th or 5th position a few lengths off the leader, then stretch out down the straight.
“It’s wonderful to finally get this horse to the track for her very patient owners.”
Brian is now totally paralysed and on oxygen 24/7. He can’t get to the track but Trevor, Leanne, her mum and a large group of extended family and friends are instead taking him to their local club to watch the race on a big screen TV.
“He’s so excited and he admitted to feeling a bit nervous for the horse,” Leanne said.
“His room is adorned with pictures of the Brian’s Lass and we’ve kept all the official emails from Racing NSW and laminated them for him.
“Regardless of the result today we are just so happy Brian is still with us.
“He wakes up smiling, he goes to bed smiling and it means to world to us knowing he will get to fulfil his dream of watching his horse race.”