Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Madhmoon set to keep spring in Hayes' step


Chris Hayes. Photo: Sportsfile
Chris Hayes. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Chris Hayes has known only one boss since breaking into race riding as a teenager and 15 years after arriving in Kevin Prendergast's Curragh yard, the pair are still going strong.

They say familiarity breeds contempt but it's a perfect tonic for Hayes, who is enjoying a stellar season in the saddle with 53 winners - fourth in the Irish jockeys' championship - as he closes in on a career-best tally of 56 from 2012 with over a month of the Flat season still to go.

A lot has changed during that time but Hayes will never forget the guidance he got from Prendergast who has been a father-figure since he made the move from Limerick village Shanagolden after completing his Junior Cert.

"I got sent to Kevin Prendergast in November 2003 on a work placement with RACE (Racing Academy and Centre of Education) and I've been there ever since. I signed as an appretice on the day I graduated in June 2014," Hayes recalls fondly.

"It speaks for itself. I like to commit to someone or something and be loyal and he's the same. He's looked after me from the moment I walked into the yard so, if it's not broken, don't try and fix it. The two of us just bounce well off each other."

Having excelled on the pony racing circuit, it was only natural that Hayes would make a quick progression and he rode his first race 11 days later before soon securing his first winner aboard Anonymity for trainer Ger Lynch at Bellewstown on July 2, 2004.

The baby-faced assassin, who was regularly asked for identification when entering pubs until relatively recently, took the Irish champion apprentice crown from 2005 to 2007 and followed with 44, 34, 30 and 19 winners in the proceeding years.

He trebled his 2011 total with 56 successes a year later before his maiden Group One triumph came aboard La Collina - poignantly trained by Prendergast - with victory in the Matron Stakes in September 2013 while Classic success followed seven days later with Voleuse De Coeurs, again for his boss, in the Irish St Leger.

With Prendergast's numbers down on previous years as the 86-year-old reaches the autumn of a remarkable training career, Hayes splits his time between there and Fozzy Stack's Tipperary stable at Thomastown Castle in Cashel as well as two days 'floating' for other Curragh trainers.

Hayes is delighted with how that partnership is going, and why wouldn't he be? Just ten days ago Stack's Son Of Rest dead-heated for Ayr Gold Cup success to become the first Irish-trained winner of the prestigious Scottish sprint contest.

Fresh from a Naas double, the 31-year-old had a rare Monday morning off work riding and after a mid-season slump which saw him without a winner for almost a month, he's happy to be "banging in winners consistently".

Hayes says: "Things have really started to pick up since Champions Weekend. It's all confidence in this game and since Champions Weekend my confidence has been sky high."

Much of that is to do with Champion Juvenile Stakes winner Madhmoon, with the Prendergast's 2,000 Guineas prospect set to shorten the winter nights.

"He looks like a genuine Group One horse. He has an entry in the Futurity at Doncaster but he'll keep me dreaming over the winter regardless if he runs or not because he looks like the real deal."

Irish Independent

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