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Ad Left to Right: Peter, Colin and David Hayes in 1990. (Bruce Postle/The Age Sport)

Hayes family’s Lightning legacy

16 February 2024 Written by Patrick Bartley

The Hayes family’s dedication and expertise have a lasting legacy in Australian racing, and the younger generation in Ben, Will and JD promises even more. The Black Caviar Lightning is one race that stands as a testament to the mark the family has already made.

The vast empire of the Hayes training enterprise, numerically anyway, is not at the top of victories in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.

While Bart Cummings and the Freedman family have an imposing record in the 1000-metre dash, the Hayes family have added a rich vein of notoriety to one of Australia’s revered sprint races.

In 1987, not long out of school, a young David Hayes and his mother, Betty, purchased an alert young filly by the name of Special.

Special showed husband and father, Colin Hayes extraordinary speed and all of Australia saw in late February of 1988 just how much explosive speed this youngster had.

“We were all supremely confident that with luck she could win the Lightning, but she not only won, but recorded a time of 55.5 seconds, which sent racing historians looking for past (race) times,” David Hayes said.

“Did you know it took until the mid-2000s for Black Caviar to run one-hundredth of a second faster than Special? And don’t forget, we didn’t have the sophisticated timing mechanisms that they did when Black Caviar was
successful.”

Nicconi

Nicconi

2010 Lightning Stakes winner Nicconi became the third winner of the race to also sire a winner of the Lightning Stakes, that being Nature Strip in 2021. (George
Salpigtidis/Racing Photos)

Redkirk Warrior

Redkirk Warrior

Redkirk Warrior after winning the 2018 Black Caviar Lightning. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

It wasn’t the first success the Hayes dynasty had in the famed race, however. In the mid-1970s when races such as the Golden Slipper were only slowly gathering momentum, trainers, owners and breeders would dream of having a two-year old capable of competing against the older and stronger sprinters.

In 1976 Colin Hayes went where so many had failed by starting a rich black filly by Without Fear.

Appropriately named Desirable, she became the pin-up filly of Australian racing. She didn’t let her fans down, becoming only the second youngster in the history of the race to win the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.

Under the weight-for-age conditions of the race, Desirable carried 43 kilograms to victory, under the ride of up-and-coming apprentice, Malcolm Johnston, narrowly edging out ‘The Professor’, Roy Higgins, on Leica Show.

In 2010, the Hayes family struck again, this time with a sharp, well-bred colt, Nicconi. Out of blue-hen mare, Nicola Lass, he displayed a lightning turn of foot to come from the back of the field and get home over the top. Another superb Damien Oliver ride, claiming his fifth win in the race.

Nicconi, with the win of star sprinter Nature Strip in 2021, joined past winners of the famous sprint in Zeditave (Sports-2001) and General Nediym (Regimental Gal-2004), to also sire a winner.

“I don’t think anyone has done that in the last century or so,” said Hayes. “Nicconi could have gone on and won more Lightnings, but he had stud duties to attend to. We never doubted that he would produce a world class
sprinter like Nature Strip.”

Nature Strip would get the international achievement honours over his sire however, emphatically winning the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot in 2022, whereas Nicconi could only manage a fourth placing back in 2010, with champion jockey Frankie Dettori aboard.

JD, Ben, Will and David Hayes continue the Lindsay Park legacy in Australia and Hong Kong. (Justin McManus/Fairfax)

There was more to come from the Lindsay Park team, after taking on ex- English and Hong Kong galloper, Redkirk Warrior. Bred to be a stayer, the giant striding import surprisingly won his first two race starts in the UK at 2000 metres before being sold to Hong Kong interests with an eye on the Hong Kong Derby.

He was narrowly beaten in The Hong Kong Classic Cup HKG1 (1800m) and was sent out favourite for the Derby (2000m), disappointingly finishing down the track. David believed there was more in him than met the eye, feet issues being one of the master trainer’s concerns.

In 2018, he roared down the Flemington straight and not only redeemed his reputation, but also established himself as a world-class sprinter. He became the first horse to win a Newmarket Handicap fresh from a spell since Polycrates did it in 1917, some hundred years earlier.

The Black Caviar Lightning remains in the upper echelon of horse races in the country and the world. The 2022 edition was rated the best sprint race in the world at the Longines World Racing Awards, and 2023’s race ranked as the second-best sprint race in the world behind the Group 1 Yulong Newmarket Handicap (1200m).

Not one year in this race’s decorated history can we see a drop off in class or a victory by an ordinary horse.
David Hayes sums up the great race below....

"It’s the first glimpse of our very best sprinters and sometimes champion middle-distance racehorses getting ready for richer events. It’s run on a straight track over 1000 metres where rarely an excuse can be found. At the end of the day another outstanding sprinter will make its way into history."

Hayes family and their Lightning Stakes victories

      Jockey Time  
2018 Redkirk Warrior(GB)  David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig Regan Bayliss 56.33 7YO Chestnut Gelding
2010 Nicconi                       David Hayes Damien Oliver  57.12 4YO Bay Horse 
1999 Isca Peter Hayes Greg Childs 57.6 3YO Bay Filly
1988 Special Colin Hayes Michael Clarke  55.5 4YO Bay Mare
1980 Sportscast Colin Hayes Jim Courtney 58.2 3YO Chestnut Colt 
1976 Desirable  Colin Hayes Malcolm Johnston 56.8 2YO Bay Filly

 

Join us in celebrating the legacy of the great Black Caviar whose stellar career consisted of 25 undefeated races. Some of the world’s fastest horses will be lining up in the $1,000,000 Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m), named in the legendary mare’s honour.

The Flemington Fareground makes an exciting return, transformed into an ultimate resort style experience, entrance is free with your race day ticket. Find out more