From a young age, David followed his dad around constantly in the stables and at the track, observing and learning from him as much as he could.
When he was old enough, he served a thorough apprenticeship by helping out in the stables where he experienced every aspect of the business. He spent time with the vets, and farriers, and he rode trackwork, strapped horses and mucked out stables.
After a brief flirtation with a professional sporting career – David was a State Champion Triple-jumper and placed third at the National titles. He also played in a premiership with Central Districts under-19s side in the South Australian National Football League, he joined the business full-time and began working side by side as an Assistant Trainer with his father from the age of 21.
David took over the training operation at Lindsay Park at the start of the 1990-91 season at the age of 28, following Colin’s retirement. During this first season, David won the Cox Plate with Better Loosen Up, set a world record of six Group winners in a day at Flemington on Derby Day and then won the G1 Japan Cup with Better Loosen Up a month later.
In 1994, he won the Melbourne Cup with imported galloper Jeune and by the end of the 1994-95 season, David had won every Melbourne and Adelaide Metropolitan Trainer’s Premiership and racked up an amazing 31 Group One wins.
In 1996, David accepted an invitation to train in the world’s toughest racing environment, Hong Kong. He was an immediate success winning two Trainer’s Premierships (top four in each of his nine seasons) and training 458 winners, including the G1 Hong Kong Derby (Elegant Fashion in 2003) and 15 other Hong Kong Group Ones.
Returning to Lindsay Park in 2005 for family reasons, Hayes picked up where he left off, immediately securing another two Melbourne Metropolitan Trainer Premierships, three Adelaide Metropolitan Premierships and trained a further 40 Group One winners.
In his 29-year training career, David has trained in excess of 4000 winners, including 95 Group One wins. He became the youngest trainer ever to be inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2008, joining his father Colin.
David is married to Prue and has four children; Ben in the Lindsay Park training partnership with his cousin Tom, JD, in a management role at Lindsay Park, William who rides and works in the business between playing AFL for Melbourne team, the Western Bulldogs and Sophie who works in digital marketing for Darley.
David’s previous success internationally has set him in great stead to return to Hong Kong racing in 2020. He says that it has always been his dream to return and when the opportunity arose, he grasped it immediately. The development of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s operation at Conghua in mainland China is an opportunity that excites Hayes and he is eyeing the opening of a stable there to further develop his worldwide stable network.
The long-term goal is to contest races in Australia as a Hong Kong trainer during feature carnivals in both the autumn and spring. “It would be one of my real aims to try and have a top-three horse in Hong Kong which is good enough to travel” said Hayes.