Hayes: I'll be back for more great times

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 12:00am

'I enjoy the Hong Kong food, the lifestyle, the enthusiasm of the owners'

David Hayes has confirmed his plans to return to the helm of his Australian business at the end of the season but, in a surprise twist, announced his long-range intention to return to Hong Kong again in five to seven years.

Hayes, 42, held a media conference at Sha Tin yesterday morning to formally announce the end of his 10-year tenure in Hong Kong, a tour of duty that has yielded 446 winners, including eight Group Ones and prizemoney of more than $422 million.

He will be back in charge of the famous Lindsay Park racing stables, established in the late 1950s by his late father Colin, for the start of the new season on August 1.

'When I first decided to come to Hong Kong [1995], people at home asked me how could I possibly leave Australia. The answer was that it was easy,' Hayes said. 'But now, they're asking me how can I leave Hong Kong and I can tell you, it's a much harder decision.

'I've made a lot of friends in Hong Kong and both [wife] Prue and I have had a great time. The thing I will miss most will be my staff, the team behind me. I get the accolades, but they have done most of the work that makes me look good.

'The owners of Hong Kong have been fantastic, and have given me wonderful support, and I am so grateful to them for the opportunities they've given me. And, of course, the horses. I'll miss the horses, but I do have a lot of other ones to go back to,' he said.

Hayes, stressed he would be 100 per cent focused on training Hong Kong winners until the season ends in late June.

'This has been a relatively quiet time for me for a number of reasons,' Hayes said. 'Firstly, two years ago I bought my proven horses from Argentina and that hasn't worked. Then last year, I bought horses from England and they are taking a bit longer to acclimatise, though I believe they'll come right before the end of the season. And thirdly, we're just coming out of winter and I always say that as the weather warms up, Hayesy does too,' he added.

Hayes said the overriding reason for his return home was to be with his sons, currently at boarding school in Adelaide. 'I haven't enjoyed the separation from my family,' he said. 'Outside of racing, my biggest hobby is watching my children grow up and play sport - I love that, and I'm missing it. I don't want to miss any more of these important years.

'Family is the first reason but there is also the pressure of owning and running Lindsay Park. This is now a big business and I need to protect my asset.'

Hayes threw a fresh spin on his departure, however, when in the presence of Jockey Club executive director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges he announced his desire to return to Hong Kong.

'I'm still a young man - I might look older but I'm actually only 42,' he joked. 'But at some stage in the future, I'd love to come back and train in Hong Kong, if the Jockey Club will have me.'

When asked if a realistic timespan for his return here might be five years, Hayes replied: 'That might be a bit too soon, but at the same time it would not much be much longer than that, either. I don't mind telling you, Hong Kong is the better place to train racehorses.'

Engelbrecht-Bresges paid tribute to Hayes' contribution to Hong Kong racing, describing him as 'a great ambassador' for the sport in the region.

'Losing David Hayes is something we would not like to see,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said. 'He has a great personality and is very popular with the punters, so his decision to return home is definitely a loss from a professional point of view.

'In our dealings with David, we have found him demanding but very fair. But apart from his great success with his horses, David has created a tremendous sense of teamwork at his stables and has brought a succession of assistant trainers and young jockeys through the ranks.'

Unlike some trainers who take time to adjust to the environment, Hayes said he felt 'perfectly at home' straight away when he arrived 10 years ago.

'There were no teething problems,' he said. 'I'd done my homework before I arrived and while there were a few adjustments to be made, the good things far outweighed the bad things.

'I find training here very easy. I enjoy the Hong Kong food, the Hong Kong lifestyle, the enthusiasm of the owners, the enthusiasm of the staff. And, very occasionally, when I'm allowed out, I enjoy the night life as well.'