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Generation Next to the fore at Lindsay Park

8 min read
We caught up with two of the next generation of the Hayes family, Sophie and JD, to talk about how the successes of the previous era are shaping the approach Colin Hayes' grandchildren are taking to the famous family business.

The much-publicised move of David and Prue Hayes back to Hong Kong last year represented a significant generational shift for Lindsay Park, which is now helmed by David's nephew Tom Dabernig, and his son, Ben Hayes.

But the Hayes influence at Lindsay Park far from ends there with David Hayes's son, JD, and daughter Sophie also involved in the family business, while JD's twin brother Will retains a close association while pursuing his own career as an AFL footballer with the Western Bulldogs.

David and Prue's succession planning began some time ago, with first Dabernig and then Ben groomed to assume the training responsibilities in partnership with David, while JD stepped up his role around 18 months ago.

"I'm very much in the day-to-day running of the stable, I really help with the logistics and the management of all the staff and operations," he told TDN AusNZ.

"I joined Lindsay Park full-time about a year and a-half ago and in that time, we have completely changed the way we run our mornings. We have changed that to be as efficient as possible. I get to work with great people such as Darren Bell, Eric Broad and Dara O'Meachair. There is a lot of experience there to bounce ideas off," he said.

Sophie recently assumed a marketing and projects role with Lindsay Park, having previously worked with Godolphin as a Media, PR and Digital Executive.

"I was lucky enough to work at Godolphin for three and a-half years. It was an amazing three and a-half years and I am really thankful for the time I had there. I moved back down with Dad going to Hong Kong, we thought the time was right," she said.

"I do a lot of our social media and am involved with positioning our brand within the market, especially with the change of 'head coach', for want of a better term."

"I do a lot of our social media and am involved with positioning our brand within the market, especially with the change of 'head coach', for want of a better term." - Sophie Steel

Will's involvement with Lindsay Park may be taking a secondary role to his AFL plans at the moment, but his twin brother is confident that at some stage, he will return, bringing all four kids full-time into a business established under the Lindsay Park name by their grandfather CS Hayes in 1965.

"He's very focussed on his football, but he has a very keen interest in racing. He comes in and watches work as much as he can as much as his football career will allow him," JD said of Will.

Will has played 11 games for the Bulldogs over two seasons and was recently rookie-listed again by the AFL club for the 2021 season.

"I'm sure when he joins the business, there will be room for him because he is keen, and has got a great work ethic. When you have people like that, you can always fit them in," he said.

David, CS and Peter Hayes in 1995 | Image courtesy of Lindsay Park Stud

Beyond the Hayes name

While the Hayes name features prominently throughout the different aspects of the Lindsay Park operation, the next generation are at pains to acknowledge that it is not just about them, with the success built on a network of staff, many of whom helped build the success of the stable under David's name.

"The main thing with Lindsay Park at the moment. We are really a team. With Dad leaving, and he played such a pivotal role, people like Jason Timperley, Dom Rhoden and Rayan Moore, everyone has really stepped up and we're playing a role in making it all flow," Sophie said.

JD emphasises the important role everyone plays at Lindsay Park.

"Our staff are the key to our success." - JD Hayes

"Our staff are the key to our success. We have got so many people working for us, in a company that aids our success and we are just playing a role in it. Everyone contributes to that success," he said.

Sophie agrees:

"That's the most important thing to us, whether your last name is Hayes or it isn't, if you are a part of Lindsay Park, you are a part of our success."

Sophie (left) and JD Hayes (right)

Success flows under new names

Dabernig and Ben Hayes already have eight stakes successes to their name less than six months in to their partnership. The highlight of the spring was when Personal (Fastnet Rock) was able to give the new regime a first Group 1 win with her victory in the G1 VRC Oaks in November. JD said the spring success was a tribute to the way the operation had been handed over.

"It’s been absolutely seamless. Tom was working under Dad for seven years, and the transition started to happen a long time before it became known publicly," he said.

"Tom took over the sheets a few months before, and that made the transition very smooth. There have been a few subtle differences, but that's all about the art of training, how different people approach their job. From day-to-day, you would know Dad isn’t there.

"It has never been a case of them just handing the keys and saying good luck. They are always there to bounce ideas and mentor us through it." - JD Hayes

"It has never been a case of them just handing the keys and saying good luck. They are always there to bounce ideas and mentor us through it."


While David has a busy stable starting up in Hong Kong, he and wife Prue still keep a close eye on what is going on back at the Lindsay Park bases at Euroa and Flemington.

"We have monthly and weekly meetings and they are involved in them. They are not here in Australia, but they are still involved very much in running the business. They oversee it from afar. They may have gone, but they haven't left," JD said.

Technology plays a major role in the David and Prue remaining connected not just their business, but their children as well.

"There couldn't be a better day and age for them to live in another country and operate a business. I speak to Mum twice a day, I speak to Dad every day. They are our biggest mentors and we still rely on them for that mentor role, especially in this transition time," Sophie said.

Prue and David Hayes | Image courtesy of Lindsay Park

'Pressure creates diamonds'

So does the enormous legacy they have inherit create pressure? Of course it does, but the next generation is ready to turn that expectation into something else.

"We always say that pressure makes diamonds," Sophie said.

JD expands on that;

"There's a large and proud history to do with Lindsay Park, so when the reins have been handed over, with Dad leaving, there is always that element of pressure to perform," he said.

"But we know the processes and we trust the processes and the results in the spring carnival bore that out. They were very pleasing. The pressure to perform is always there, but if we just put our heads down, and stick to our process, then the results will follow."

Tom Dabernig, David Hayes and Ben Hayes

Assisting that process is a strong family dynamic. Working inside a family business with your siblings is not something everyone can thrive in, but JD feels the respect among the family members is very strong.

"It works really well. We are really lucky we have grown up as a really close family. We don’t hold back with giving each other feedback, and we take the approach of caring personally, but challenging professionally. That's worked well," he said.

Sophie agrees that the shared experience of their upbringing has helped them form shared goals about what they want from Lindsay Park.

"It was never an option not to be close growing up in an apartment in Hong Kong where we lived on top of each other. We've always genuinely got along. That's really helpful when it comes to working together as well," she said.

Collective ambition to the fore

A key part of that success will be maintaining the collective approach. They say there is no I in team, and it’s the same when it comes to Hayes. JD sees his own ambitions and those of the Lindsay Park team as one.

"I'm more interested in the Lindsay Park brand than being successful. If the Lindsay Park brand is successful, then the family is successful. It’s more important to me than individual honours," he said.

"We always use the analogy of a football team," Sophie says.

"If the football team is Lindsay Park, then you've got a full-forward, a head coach, you've got an assistant coach and everyone. We are not a team of champions, we want to be a champion team. That's the way we look at it."