Melbourne Cup hopeful Constantinople (right) gallops at the Valley last week with stablemate Harlem. Picture: AAP
Melbourne Cup hopeful Constantinople (right) gallops at the Valley last week with stablemate Harlem. Picture: AAP

Top trainer Hayes wants to go out with Cup

David Hayes casts his eyes across what he calls the family's $24 million succession plan - the magnificent property just outside of Euroa - and knows his late father Colin would approve of Lindsay Park's future direction.

It's tranquil in the specially-constructed trainers' lookout with a panoramic view of the custom-made track and the picturesque property as the sound of pounding hoofs breaks the early morning silence.

 

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On this morning, Hayes and his training partners - his eldest son Ben and his nephew Tom Dabernig - monitor their stable stars as they gear up for David's last crack at winning a second Melbourne Cup - 25 years since his first with Jeune.

He's not retiring - far from it.

At 57, Hayes says career-wise, he has "just turned into the (Flemington) straight."

But and his wife Prue will move to Hong Kong next year where he will train for a second time.

The last time Hayes went - in 1996 - he had "four kids under five"; now one of those adult children - plus his experienced nephew Tom - will be in charge of Lindsay Park's Australian business.

It's all part of David's carefully-moulded succession strategy which will also include his two other sons - JD and Will - ultimately join the Lindsay Park training partnership in coming years.

"I spent $24 million on the facilities on this property and I wouldn't have spent anywhere near that if I didn't have a succession plan," Hayes said.

 

David Hayes with Constantinople, the second favourite for the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
David Hayes with Constantinople, the second favourite for the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

 

It's been two decades since Colin Hayes, the patriarch of one of Australian racing's most famous families, passed away.

He famously built a racing empire off the back of hard work, great training nous and using a phrase not dissimilar to the one that Malcolm X was famous for.

"'The future belongs to those who plan for it', it's a nice phrase, isn't it," David Hayes said. "Dad built the business on that."

"For me, it has been great to build this (Euroa) facility and to have a succession plan that has been four years in the making because I will enjoy watching the boys use it for many, many years to come.

"If I hadn't got the job in Hong Kong, I was probably going to retire from training and become the chairman (of Lindsay Park).

"I wanted to open up the opportunities for my children."

The Hayes, Hayes, Dabernig team will take three horses into Tuesday's $7.75 million Melbourne Cup, with Constantinople ($8) the second favourite after a luckless fourth in the Caulfield Cup, along with outsiders Rostropovich ($67) and Neufbosc ($301).

Hayes would love nothing more than to go out sharing a Cup win with his son and nephew before he takes up the much-sought after position with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

"I just feel we are a nice domestic business that is about to become an international one," he said.

"I have trained with Tom for five years, and with Ben for three years now, and worked with them for a lot longer.

"They have been terrific training partners. I am sure they are ready … if I wasn't confident they would do well, I wouldn't be going."

 

David Hayes celebrates with dad Colin after winning the the 1990 Cox Plate with Better Loosen Up.
David Hayes celebrates with dad Colin after winning the the 1990 Cox Plate with Better Loosen Up.

 

 

There is neat symmetry about the training partners as David explained.

"I am 13 years older than Tom … Ben is 13 years younger than Tom."

"It is fantastic that the business was able to flourish through the C.S (Hayes) era and it should continue to do so for a long time to come."

Dabernig grew up on his grandfather Colin's property at Angaston in South Australia and was exceptionally close to the Hall of Fame trainer.

In the last week of Colin's life, he was given a gold stopwatch from his grandfather with the inscription: "Dear Tom, best of luck for your future. Love Pa."

Colin had encouraged Tom to change his name to Dabernig-Hayes, so he could be better recognised in the training sphere.

Tom relented, but his mother, Jan (Colin's daughter), says her father would be delighted the current Lindsay Park training name is Hayes, Hayes, Dabernig.

"I was so lucky in the early days to spend a lot of time with my grandfather," Tom recalled. "One of the main things I always remember about him is that he had an iron constitution for being able to work massive hours in a day, and now I see myself in a similar situation."

Then he laughed: "I think if I got paid by the hour, I would be a rich man."

"David found his outlet with his children playing football. At the moment I have a young family (he and wife Cassie have three sons, Hugo, 12, Teddy, 8, and George, almost three), so when I am not working I spend a lot of time with them."

 

 

David Hayes and training partner Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes have their eyes on the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Karon Photography
David Hayes and training partner Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes have their eyes on the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Karon Photography

 

Importantly, he worked in the family business when David had his first stint in Hong Kong, predicts a seamless transition this time around.

"We have been very fortunate to train beside David in the way these training partnerships have been structured," he said.

"We are familiar with the processes, we have a great team of staff, we have great horses and great owners."

He said the point of difference of not only having the farm at Euroa, but also a strong Flemington base which Ben oversees with assistant trainer JD, as well as smaller stables at Pakenham and Sydney, was important.

"David has helped to mould myself and Ben into who we are," Tom said.

"He has ultimately been responsible for everything you see here (at Euroa), but there is a sense of responsibility for us now."

"Training horses sort of comes naturally to me, I don't query that at all. I guess you always need a bit of luck in racing.

"Ben is really keen and enthusiastic. We've got David's son JD getting more involved and Will is playing footy at the moment, but he will join the business at some stage.

"People have often told me that they used to see (Colin Hayes) as a bit of a visionary … he did things well before the trends.

"He would be absolutely in his element with what we are doing at the moment."

Ben joined the training partnership in 2016, two years after Tom, and thanks his older cousin.

"I have learnt so much off Tom," he said. "He actually teaches more than Dad."

"It's a big compliment to Tom and I that Dad has the trust in us.

"This is just the start of it. (JD and Will) are both interested in training, and my sister (Sophie) works for Godolphin, so we might get the whole family back at some stage."

 

 

Constantinople (black sleeves and cap) was an unlucky fourth in the Caulfield Cup behind Me Der Glace. Picture: Micheal Klein
Constantinople (black sleeves and cap) was an unlucky fourth in the Caulfield Cup behind Me Der Glace. Picture: Micheal Klein

 

Nothing would please David more. He would like to see JD introduced to the training partnership within the next two years, while Will's timetable depends on his football.

Asked where he sees Lindsay Park in 2025, Hayes hopes the next phase of his succession plan has long been bedded down.

"I can see me probably coming home and being the chairman (of Lindsay Park) and hopefully we can set up for a Lindsay Park trainer in Hong Kong," he said.

"You can't just get a job in Hong Kong, you have to be invited, so it is not a given."

"Strategically, if JD and Will are in the partnership, they speak fluent Mandarin (courtesy of living in Hong Kong during their Dad's last stint there).

"Hopefully one of the boys could try and get to Hong Kong at some stage."

The Lindsay Park property near Euroa - which was almost destroyed by floods when it was being developed and ravaged by a bushfire that put David in the firing line a week before Christmas five years ago - continues to grow.

Hayes has just purchased a 600-acre property "over the hill" which will be reserved for agistment only.

"That means there is 1200 acres there which means you can rest 500 acres at a time, so that you can't have pristine pastures for your horses."

For the moment, though, Hayes can't look past Tuesday, as he believes he can win a farewell Melbourne Cup in partnership with his son and his nephew before handing over the reins in 2020.