“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan, US orator and politician
Destiny is a word that JD Hayes is most familiar with. In fact, he could even spell it in Chinese.
As the youngest son (by just a few minutes) of racing greats David and Prue Hayes, the word and its reality have slowly chased him and his siblings from the children’s playgrounds in Hong Kong to the glorious Adelaide hills before finally meeting up with them at a unique country Victorian training set-up outside Euroa.
Through that whole journey, JD Hayes has known his future but has been careful of its glittering allure. Wary of being too quick to assume and careful to the point of ensuring he is there on those bitterly cold mornings at the bottom of the pack and doing the slogging, grunt work that he now regards as being the true engine of a successful racing stable.
He is there also for fast work and so when, on August 1, he rises to become a training partner with already-established older brother Ben, JD Hayes will be one of a bare handful of trainers that can ride a horse home in its last furlong in under 12 seconds.
JD stands for James David, although he has never been known by those names, only their initials.
“I am the youngest of the family (he was born nine minutes after Will) so I ran out of grandfathers (to be named after), so I got a part of dad’s name,” he explained.
“Truth be told, mum didn’t want us to be known as Billy and Jimmy so my name is JD and he’s Will.”
All boys and their sister Sophie, who is also an integral part of the business side of the family operation, spent a sizeable part of their youth in Hong Kong, where their father would become champion trainer and where he would return again to train just last year in a move that would hurry the destiny of his children along a little.
It was in Hong Kong where the children’s future was first revealed and the results of testing lessons from those days still linger. JD said his parents felt it important the children learn Mandarin and it is a skill JD is grateful to have, especially as the business has re-established itself a foothold in Hong Kong.
“The first 10 years of my life was in Hong Kong and I carried it (speaking Mandarin) on through,” he explained. Mum and dad were keen for me to continue and I am so glad and thank them to this day for it, because it is such an asset.”
After leaving Melbourne Grammar, he attended university to undertake a commerce degree and to major in Chinese, which is a gift he is yet to fully realise.
“The only practice I get at the moment is going to the local Chinese (restaurant) at Euroa,” he lamented.
JD Hayes is 25 years old and as so, is almost exactly the same age as his father when he took over the original Lindsay Park empire, based at Angaston in the hills outside Adelaide.
That he may seem younger or less experienced is an illusion. David Hayes was so often at the side of his father CS (Colin) as his foreman for several seasons before he assumed the major role while JD has been much less visible as he has learned the many facets of the racing business.
Less visible maybe, but just as absorbed with obtaining knowledge and just as hungry to make things happen.
“I’d like to think that I have a good knowledge of most things to do with racing and that has a lot to with this fabulous facility,” Hayes said of the enormous training set-up outside of Euroa.
“We are very lucky at Euroa because it’s a one-stop shop. I used to spread my time when I was coming through with the farriers, the vets, the pre-trainers, the breakers and with the racehorses and was able to get great experience in all areas.”
JD’s twin Will plays AFL with the Western Bulldogs and he too is destined to train racehorses with his brothers. Football, it seems, also played a major role in JD’s development.
He was the captain of his football team at Melbourne Grammar but perhaps its biggest life lesson came a few years later when, at the age of just 21, JD became the youngest senior coach ever for Euroa.
“We played finals that year and I learned so much such as how to communicate with people and to manage expectations,” Hayes explained. “I also had to manage a financial budget of $180,000 so it was great learning experience for me.
“It is very important in those situations to be able to lead by example.
“It (coaching) really helped me as over the last three years in the stable we’ve restructured the stable routines and I was part of that. The whole process has really helped with communication with the staff and to be able to be hands-on with them over the past three years has been of great benefit.
“They are so valued. We have such experience and knowledge with the staff and going forward with Ben and I, if we don’t have the answer for something, we don’t have to look too far to get it so that gives us so much confidence.”
Hayes admits his rise to become a trainer in the business from next season was hastened by the imminent departure to pursue his own career of his cousin Tom Dabernig, but he said he has known for some time now that his time had come to move into one of the senior roles.
“COVID certainly accelerated things but I was chomping at the bit at the opportunity,” he said. “I know I am ready.”
Ready and realistic. He also knows such a large change in the face of the business over the past year could lead to some doubt as to its immediate future especially. But he said he and his brother were determined to make their own way and to continue the family’s amazing legacy.
“I think the next two years, we are going to have to work hard but I am looking forward to it because Ben and I are going to have to build our own brand and form relationships with new and old clients,” he said. “It’s not daunting, it’s exciting.
“I am well prepared that the next couple of years might not be successful as others, but if so, that is all part of it. We work hard, think smart and the results will come.
“We are so very lucky to inherit these amazing facilities and that is an important point of difference and a real selling point for us.
“As many people that get up there (Euroa complex) the better because I really do think that It is one thing to see the footage but when you see it in the flesh as it is, it is quite breathtaking.
“You can watch the horses go through their paces and then go to the canteen, sit down and have a chat and really enjoy the experience.
“That’s the main reason why people are in racing - for a bit of fun – and you can’t forget that.”
Destiny also demands that, in the future, the training establishment will have a third member. But before it becomes Ben, JD and Will Hayes, the latter’s availability depends on his football career.
“I am looking forward to him joining us,” JD said.
“He comes in every morning (Flemington stable) and watches work, but under contact obligations he can’t actually touch them (horses) and he comes in before training, which is just down the road (Footscray).
“Until the last year, the longest we’ve been away from each other is about two weeks so we are very close. We share the same group of friends and played in the same footy teams right the way through and we’re very lucky that we have the same interests.”
So how long does JD envisage Will’s football career holding back a three-way Hayes partnership?
“He’d be wanting to get a few kicks this year,” he said.