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Horse Heaven in Thoroughbred Homeland

This article has appeared previously with Equestrian Life. To see what is in our latest issue, please click here.


© Lindsay Park
Lindsay Park, the Thoroughbred training complex established by David Hayes, is arguably the best in the southern hemisphere. The first of Hayes’ horses to move in there was Fields of Omagh, a big bay that was so content he just kept on racing, going on to become the oldest horse to win the Cox Plate in 2006, aged nine.
LEADING AUSTRALIAN HORSE trainer David Hayes struck gold when he settled on a picturesque Central Victorian property to establish the next generation of Hayes’ Thoroughbred training facilities. The block, all 1200 acres of it, boasts glorious views, lolling, rolling hills, lush paddocks and large dams. Dozing koalas curl up in the cleft of trees, kangaroos graze on the surrounding grasslands. Even the name of the small town nearby promises serenity: Euroa, or "Year-O", is from the local Aboriginal word for joyful. It looks like horse heaven.
Nestled at the foot of the Strathbogie Ranges, the region around Euroa was discovered by white men long before David Hayes called it home. Hume and Hovell first explored the district in 1824, the first fine merino farm was established in the region in 1851 and Ned Kelly and gang probably hid in the surrounding bush after holding up the Euroa Bank and making off with 2000 pounds in  cash and gold in 1878.  It was the main stopping point for the stream of diggers heading from Melbourne to Beechworth at the height of the Gold Rush.   
The Hayes family motto is: “The future belongs to those who plan for it’’. It is what David Hayes had in mind when he settled on the purchase of the prized property. The establishment of Lindsay Park at Euroa meant a big move for Hayes, who was based in Hong Kong at the time and enjoying soaring success as a trainer in the city of skyscrapers. Previously, the Hayes family training facility had been on an equally beautiful slice of Australian soil. The original Lindsay Park was at Angaston amid the stunning Barossa Valley of South Australia. 
David’s famous father, Colin, had established that property in 1965 after a trip to the UK convinced him of the merits of tranquil countryside settings in which to train his stable of racehorses. It proved a success. Hayes senior, the father and founder of a family racing dynasty – now in to its third generation – enjoyed glorious success on the track. Among his trophy collection stood two Melbourne Cups, three Cox Plates and a Caulfield Cup, all helping gain him easy entry into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Retiring in 1990, Colin handed Lindsay Park to sons Peter and David, who each stamped their own style and measure of success on the property. With the tragic death of Peter in a plane crash in 2001, David took full rein. The decision to relocate from SA to Central Victoria was seen as a natural progression.
“Geographically, it suited everyone better because of its positioning between Melbourne and Sydney,’’ said Lindsay Park general manager, Tom Dabernig. The nephew of David Hayes (as the son of David's sister Jan) and grandson of Colin, Dabernig, 37, is the third generation of the Hayes firmly entrenched in the family business. Born into the saddle, he has done less riding since a kick from a horse broke his leg more than two years ago.
DAH Euroa
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Park.
The business that is Lindsay Park Euroa is now a multi-million dollar, high-tech state-of-the-art facility set amid a stunning setting and boasting all – and more – mod cons. In the day gym for gee-gees, there are automatic horse walkers, high-speed treadmills fitted with cooling fans and an aqua-trainer that aids both working-out and recovery. The on-site veterinary hospital treats and tends to all horses and a hospital quarantine area is reserved for animals with special needs. The observation huts boast the latest technology from which to observe and record track times, and deep sand rolls are a relaxing place where the animals stretch out after a workout.
Equipment includes 76 stables and 36 walk-in, walk-out yards. There are 32 irrigated day paddocks, two large dams and protective fencing. There is a 1330-metre uphill track, a 1250-metre sand track, a hurdles track for training variety and a 1950-metre pro-ride track for fast gallops. More are under construction. 
DAH waterwalker

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Park.
The land is idyllic. Undulating vistas, morning mists and temperate evenings. Only organic farming methods are observed, for the health of the horses and the benefit of the soil. A covering of pig, chicken and recycled horse manure all composted down keeps the fields as green as a croquet lawn. Worm juice is a tonic for the thirsty land. 
Can an animal's home turf affect it on track? The proof is in the performances. “Fields of Omagh was one of the horses to really benefit from the uphill racing tracks,’’ says Tom Dabernig. “You had to nurse him along with his soundness. The uphill work transferred the weight to his hindquarters and that way we could keep him fit and ticking along without the hard galloping. That helped him race through as a mature age horse, because the training really suited him.''
2013-01-15 15.21.43
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Park.
Fields of Omagh, or Foo, as he was known by punters, has a racing record that speaks for itself. He is fourth on the list of all-time stake earners at almost $6.5 million in a career that pitted him against the likes of Makybe Diva, Northerly, Sunline and Lonhro. “He wasn't just the stable favourite because he was a champion racehorse, he also had a lovely quiet nature and his surroundings probably helped that,'' says Tom. 
The names of more legends from Lindsay Park adorn stable blocks and the fencing surrounding the paddocks. As well as paying tribute to champions, they serve to remind that Lindsay Park is a textbook exercise in equine excellence. “Some horses suit country training better while others need the stimulation of city surrounds to bring out the best in them,'' says Tom. “Fields of Omagh was a case in point. He genuinely loved being here. He swam in the dams and he always peaked during spring racing. But we are unique in that we have always had a city base with the option of the rural retreat.''
LP Office wall
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Park.
At present, about 80 of Hayes' horses are in full-time training. Up to 40 are in pre-training, much the way of an AFL player over summer, and about 30 are spelling in the paddocks. “Horses are herd animals and when we spell them, we keep them in natural groups of eight of the same sex and same age and they all do well. But horses in work are a creature of habit and they like routine. In a seven-day-a-week industry, we follow routine rigidly. The horses are fed at the same time three times a day, they work at the same time, and their routine is fixed.''
Hayes himself swings between the Euroa property during the week and Melbourne on the weekends, and just keeps going from strength to strength. He has trained 78 Group One winners, with Jeune claiming the 1994 Melbourne Cup. Hayes long ago stepped out from his famous father's shadows to shine in his own right. But it is in two areas he has followed form and found success. His Lindsay Park will carry the Hayes racing tradition into the next era, and David's record as a trainer was also recognised when he became the youngest member admitted in to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
DAH Eagle Falls
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Park.
Plans continue to shape Lindsay Park into the future. There is talk of recreating the wildlife sanctuary that was part of the original Lindsay Park in South Australia that delighted overseas visitors who were able to get close to kangaroos, emus and deer. “There are kangaroos around Euroa and the horses notice them but keep their distance,'' Tom Dabernig says. “Euroa is very much a natural wildlife park already as it is.''

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