Vale Mike Brown

Michael John (Mike) Brown, a man well-known for his "Eyre" line of horses and a "work hard play hard" mentality, will be farewelled on Wednesday.

A farmer, studmaster, breeder, and trainer, he died at Christchurch hospital last week, surrounded by his family. His son Darryl says he kept his sense of humour right to the end.

"He was always up for a laugh and loved being sociable, and his mind was as sharp as a tack."

Mike Brown grew up in North Canterbury and left school at the age of 13, working the family farm with a team of Clydesdales.

Earlier, when he was just six he went to his first New Zealand Cup at Addington and dreamed of owning a racehorse.

He would later say that would have to wait till after he was established on his own farm.

In 1968 Mike and his wife Peta purchased around 100 hectares just outside Christchurch, fattening cattle and growing crops like peas, beans and broccoli for Birds Eye and Watties.

On the banks of the Waimakariri and the Eyre Rivers, the farm was named Wai Eyre Farm, and has since grown to over 500 hectares and currently runs around 800 beef cattle alongside the horses.

In 1977 Mike decided to cash in his life insurance policy to buy his first racehorse, a filly he called Wai Eyre. She won four races, the first on the grass at Hororata in 1980.

"That was his first training success and a real thrill," says Darryl.

Wai Eyre's biggest win was the Nelson Cup. The whole family loved being involved, with Mike particularly liking the grass track circuit, and racing at Methven, Rangiora and the Westport and Reefton meetings.

In all Brown senior trained 42 winners with his last victory fittingly being with the best horse he ever had, Johnny Eyre, at Methven in February 2021.

Johnny Eyre won 10 races in all and like many of the Brown horses was descended directly from Wai Eyre.

After getting into agistment and then being National Bloodstock's South Island base for horse semen transportation, Wai Eyre Farm was chosen to stand retired millionaire pacer, and superstar sire Christian Cullen not long after his 1998 New Zealand Cup win.

"Dad was just so proud to have Christian Cullen in the front paddock," says Darryl.

He would remain there for a decade.

Wai Eyre Farm grew into one of New Zealand's premier stud farms, breeding and foaling upwards of 500 mares a season, with Brown sending many of his own mares to the champ.

"Johnny Eyre (10 wins), Eyre County (6 wins), Wai Eyre Lady and South Eyre were his favourites because they were all from that same family," says Darryl.

Altogether Harness Racing New Zealand records show that Mike Brown bred or co-bred 86 horses from 1984 to 2022, with Drovers Eyre (9 wins) and Dusky Eyre (8 wins) among the better performers.

In December 2021 Wai Eyre Farm had the surprise birth of a unique “splashed” standardbred filly by resident stallion Sky Major out of Myex. Her arrival caused a stir all of its own, attracting national and international media interest. Lucy turned out to be only the third de novo white coat colour variation mutation in Standardbreds that has been documented.

Farming, horses and family were recurring themes throughout Mike Brown's 89 years.

He is survived by three children, Sharron, Angela and Darryl. His wife Peta died last year on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Darryl says his father was old school but at the same time always looking at opportunities, and ways to innovate.

"He worked hard and played hard, that was his motto," says Darryl, "just before he died he was asking about beef prices!"

A celebration of Mike Brown's life will be held at :

Rangiora Chapel
92 Kippenberger Avenue
April 17 at 12pm


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