The 21st of May 2016 will be a day Chris Hayes never forgets; the day he landed the Irish 2000 Guineas aboard Awtaad for what was undoubtedly a turning point in a career that consistently sauntered along, albeit at a pace many jockeys would be more than happy to settle for.
Ironically 2016 statistically was Hayes’s worst in terms of numbers of winners over the last seven years but it is a campaign that sowed the seed and now he is firmly reaping the benefits. Three winners at the Carnival so far may not sound a lot but they have come for Jamie Osborne, Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Fellowes so the word is firmly out – and Hayes knows it,
“Winning the Ayr Gold Cup last year (aboard Son Of Rest) was a big thing, it is a big handicap in the UK and that is when trainers sit up and take note. Over in Ireland we are perhaps guilty of living in our own little bubble, assuming that when we head out of Ireland we can just pick up rides but it is very difficult to get noticed.”
Riding winners on a big stage helps. “Awtaad was great, and hopefully we have another one in Madhmoon for this year, but one thing it did teach me was that everything doesn’t necessarily just come to you. Even after winning on Awtaad there was no full book of rides. When Awtaad came to Ascot and Goodwood following the Guineas I was over just to ride him and sitting there watching the lads go out to ride is tough. It perhaps gave me a new focus, I changed my agent, I had the fortune of the job with Fozzy Stack coming along to compliment what I was doing with Kevin Prendergast and I really felt 2018 was a huge step forward in my career.”
The stats prove that, too, his tally of 61 in Ireland was just the one shy of his seasonal best and for the early part of the season he was the butt of everyone’s jokes in the weighing room for leading the jockey’s title come Irish Guineas weekend…”The lads kept ripping into me saying I was going to be champion. Fozzy usually starts quickly but the winners kept flowing. I suppose one of the most pleasing elements about last year was when the likes of Sir Michael Stoute, William Haggas, Karl Burke, Richard Fahey and a few others came over they would use me and such connections can only help me going forward.”
It is connections and a horse closer to home, though, that gets Hayes excited, MADHMOON to be precise, unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile and looking every inch the classic contender. Awtaad ended a 40-year wait for another Irish Guineas for Prendergast and Hayes hopes the wait won’t be as long for a man he admires greatly, “I have been with Kevin since the beginning, way back in 2004, and is obviously somebody I owe a great deal too. He knows a good horse when he sees one and Madhmoon certainly fits that brief. The boss says he has done well for his break and I hope to fly back from Dubai before the end of the season here to have a sit on him. I presume we will try and get a trial into him before the Guineas.”
Race replay: Chris Hayes win the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes aboard Madhmoon.
If Prendergast has taught him one thing then it is probably the value of patience, something Hayes has had to show a good deal of during his various spells here in Dubai. Associated with the stable of HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum firstly under the care of Dhruba Selvaratnam and now Nicholas Bachalard, the yard hasn’t always been a prolific source of winners but that doesn’t deter Hayes. “Nicholas has a great vision. This is his first season here and naturally things will take time to fall into line with how he wants them. We are getting new horses in from the UK and America at various stages of their development and it isn’t always as easy as everyone thinks just to get them straight onto the track.”
Whilst Hayes can’t be guaranteed Carnival winners from his own stable just yet he has made a pretty good fist of getting them from outside, three and counting and with contacts mounting up all the time, Chris Hayes is certainly a jockey to follow.