Flemington dawn for Lindsay Park’s next generation
Most racing fans vividly recall their first Flemington experience.
It is Australia’s most famous racecourse, home to the nation’s greatest race and has an aura like few other racing venues in the world, meaning a first visit there generally leaves an impression.
But, for Will Hayes, 28-year-old son of Hall of Fame trainer David and grandson of Lindsay Park Racing patriarch Colin, Flemington has been a part of life from before he can even remember.
It is therefore appropriate that one of his lifelong dreams will be realised at this Saturday’s Aurie’s Star Handicap meeting, which will be his first metropolitan meeting as a trainer, having joined twin brother JD and older brother Ben in a training partnership earlier this week.
Even more excitement at Lindsay Park Racing as Will officially joins the training partnership for the new season! pic.twitter.com/Vw0Tz89T9I— Lindsay Park Racing (@lindsayparkrace) July 24, 2023
“The whole Flemington area feels like home – the track itself, the Kensington area and the shops nearby – it’s what I knew growing up and spending weekends there,” Hayes said.
“It’s a very special place, it’s called Headquarters for a reason and I don’t think there’s a better track in Australia.
“It’s a bit weird thinking that my name is on the card now, because it still feels the same, like I’ll be going there to support the team, so it’s all going to be pretty surreal on Saturday.”
The younger twin is the sixth Hayes to be a licensed trainer at Lindsay Park, the training behemoth that has evolved from humble beginnings started by Hayes’ grandfather Colin in South Australia almost 80 years ago.
He handed over to son David in 1990, while his departure to Hong Kong in the mid-1990s saw Colin’s eldest son Peter have a successful stint in charge before his death in a plane crash in 2001.
Tony McEvoy, the only non-relative of Colin’s to head up Lindsay Park, steered the ship with distinction for five years after Peter’s death, while Tom Dabernig – son of Colin’s daughter Jan – also had stints as training partner, first with David and later with Ben.
(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
“All three of us boys really respect the history that we have behind us and the brand of Lindsay Park,” Will said.
“It extends further than our family, as we’ve had quite a number of different head trainers and combinations over the journey, so we count ourselves lucky every day that we are representing them and hopefully it is something we can build on.”
Hayes now spends the bulk of his time at Lindsay Park’s main base, at Euroa, but before that was assistant trainer at the Flemington stable as he juggled maintaining involvement in the operation and living out his AFL dream, which realised 11 games for the Western Bulldogs and Carlton.
But Hayes helped out on school holidays and rode trackwork as a teenager, meaning he has had a close connection with many of the stable’s modern-day stars.
Many of those have achieved their greatest moments at Flemington and a speedster that made a habit of thumbing his nose at Newmarket Handicap history is one that Hayes remembers particularly fondly.
After becoming the first horse in almost 100 years to win the race first-up, Redkirk Warrior backed up 12 months later to become just the fifth multiple winner of Australia’s most prestigious sprint race.
“I’ve got that many goosebump moments, but when Redkirk went back-to-back, I’ll never forget that,” Hayes said.
“It’d be very difficult to nail it down to one, but Redkirk’s back-to-back Newmarket win was special, that’s for sure.”
Redkirk Warrior is among seven Newmarket winners for Lindsay Park, while he also won a Black Caviar Lightning, something five other Hayes family gallopers have also done.
Harlem’s back-to-back Australian Cups wins in 2017-18 took to nine the number of times Lindsay Park have won that race, while they also have seven Victoria Derby’s, a VRC Oaks, four Australian Guineas, and a swag of the Group 1s that now make up Champions Day, including six of the eight editions of the race now known as the Champions Mile run between 1989 and 1996.
Of course, there have also been three Melbourne Cup wins. Colin won with Beldale Ball in 1980 and At Talaq six years later, while David was successful with Jeune in 1994.
None of the team Will has his name attached to this Saturday are likely to end up on any of those honour rolls, but that won’t diminish the excitement around his metropolitan debut.
Here To Shock will fly the Lindsay Park flag in the $200,000 Group 3 Aurie’s Star and they have seven other runners across five races, including several at single-figure odds.
“With the team that we’re taking there, I couldn’t be happier,” Hayes said.
“There are horses resuming and a few horses in good form, so I’m sure it’s going to be a good day at Headquarters.”
Will's first win as a trainer. Powerbound, ridden by Billy Egan, wins on the Pakenham Synthetic on the first day of the new season. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)
Season 2023-24 kicks off at Flemington with VRC Season Premiere Race Day, headlined by the Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m) for the sprinters, a race that has paved the way to spring success in the past. Join us at Headquarters to bring in the new season. Click here for details.