Obituaries: Colin Hayes

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The Independent Culture
AMONG THE many things Australian racing has been blessed with - high prize money and packed racecourses, for example - are a triumvirate of fine trainers: Colin Hayes, Tommy (T.J.) Smith and Bart Cummings.

Colin Hayes saddled more than 5,000 winners during his 40-year career. He was Melbourne's leading trainer for 13 successive seasons from 1977 to 1990, and trained his last winner in July 1990.

It was Hayes who the owner-breeder Robert Sangster turned to when he wanted to set up an operation in Australia in the early 1970s, equating Hayes's abilities with those of the Irish training genius Vincent O'Brien. He told me:

I went to see his Lindsay Park operation in South Australia in the early 1970s and was struck immediately at how just like Vincent his gallops were on an incline and unlike the other Australian trainers who trained on the racecourses, which were also flat, his was a private operation.

It was the ideal training ground for me and allied to his marketing ability and the fact he was such a forward thinking man he was the ideal partner . . . I would put Colin in the top ten of racing people worldwide in this century.

In 1980 Hayes and Sangster captured the Holy Grail of Australian racing, the Melbourne Cup, with Beldale Ball. They are now partners in stud farms in New South Wales and Victoria although Lindsay Park remains the jewel in the crown.

Lindsay Park was the perfect destination when Sangster and his Irish partner John Magnier started the then revolutionary idea of sending stallions from Coolmore Stud in Tipperary to Australia for the breeding season. Godswalk was the first stallion to alight in the 1970s, and he sired a sequence of champions. His success, and that of several other stallions from Coolmore, has led to nearly every major northern hemisphere breeder following suit.

Hayes had a rare eye for a horse. In the early 1980s he ignored derisory comments to buy Rory's Jester for just A$10,000 and turned him into a champion two-year-old and sire.

He also enjoyed a lucrative relationship with the Maktoums, the ruling family of Dubai. This was cemented when he trained Hamdan al-Maktoum's horse At Talaq, which had run fourth in the Derby. After being sent to Hayes, he went on to win the 1986 Melbourne Cup. For Sheikh Hamdan Hayes also bought Zabeel, for A$500,000. Zabeel was already a top-flight racehorse, but has become an even better stallion, establishing world records with his first three progeny.

Hayes was born in 1924. His father was a boilermaker who died when he was nine, and none of his family had been involved in horseracing. Hayes established Lindsay Park in the Barossa Valley in South Australia in 1950 from nothing to become both a training and breeding establishment.

Adrian Nicholl, a leading bloodstock agent, was just a green wannabe agent when he went to the sales in Australia in 1974. Hayes listened to him, gave him advice and from that moment on believed in the English-born Irish-based agent. Nicholl told me:

He was an incredibly easy guy to deal with. When I sat down with him and Peter Savill about sending the 1995 French Derby winner Celtic Swing to him there was no faffing around; we wrote out a three-line contract and that was that.

Hayes belied the image of the parochial Australian by battling to set racing up in both Jakarta and Tehran before the Islamic revolution set in and spoiled his plans. It was mainly thanks too to his influence and lobbying that the Australian government gave large taxbreaks to encourage businessmen to invest in racing and breeding, thus providing Australian racing with a huge boom period in the 1980s.

Despite undergoing major heart surgery in 1980, the year he was appointed OBE for services to racing, Hayes refused to give up training for another 10 years, producing another champion for Sangster in 1988 with the sprinting mare Special. Up until 1990, Lindsay Park had bred almost 2,000 individual winners who between them won 7,400 races and more than A$40m in prize money.

Two of his children are also champion trainers: David, who was leading handler in Hong Kong last season, and Peter, who is leading the current championship in Melbourne and Adelaide. Colin Hayes remained in the game helping his two sons and saw David train Jeune to win the 1994 Melbourne Cup for Hamdan al-Maktoum. He was still active this year attending the Easter sales in Sydney, where he suffered the heart attack that eventually killed him.

Colin Sidney Hayes, horse trainer: born 16 February 1924; OBE 1980; married (three sons, one daughter); died Lindsay Park, South Australia 21 May 1999.