On The Gallops With Former Jockey Frank Hayes 

On Saturday afternoon I was invited up to former National Hunt jockey Frank Hayes’ yard, based in Philip Fenton’s yard just by Grangemockler, who now has turned his hand to training horses, and holds a restricted National Hunt Trainers Licence. 

Frank who started his racing career up in RACE in Kildare, and having his first ride as an apprentice at The Curragh on Academy Blues for Eoin Griffin. From day one when Frank walked into the yard I could see the drive and determination in wanting to succeed in the racing industry, with his hard work ethic and asking many questions whether it was to do with riding work, schooling horses, or getting young horses going forward, in my opinion was someone who wanted to learn and make a go of it as a jockey. 

Having ridden as an apprentice here in Ireland Frank decided to make a big move over to England, where he based himself with one of the biggest flat racing yards in the UK under the watchful eye of trainer Andrew Balding, riding as an apprentice jockey on the track and notching up a few winners for Balding as well. While in Andrew Balding’s Frank was riding plenty of work with some of the top jockeys in the UK such as David Probert and Tom Brown, and shortly just before Frank arrived into Balding’s yard, the now two time champion jockey William Buick had served his apprenticeship just before Hayes joined the Andrew Balding team. 

After riding on the flat for Andrew Balding, Frank then made the move to one of the biggest National Hunt yards in the UK to David Pipe’s yard, where this time around he gained plenty of experience in schooling horses from a young age up to handicappers and top level graded horses as well. Having ridden on the flat as an apprentice jockey, what stood to Frank going into the Pipe yard was judging the pace be it in pieces of work or race riding on the track, having a good clock in his head and being able to judge the pace of a race. At the time in Pipe’s yard were jockeys Conor O’ Farrell, Tom Bellamy, Danny Cook and Johnny Farrelly, who were all extremely helpful to Hayes, and he could only grow in confidence in riding work and schooling on a daily basis with jockeys at this level. While in David Pipe’s yard Hayes rode a nice few winners for the Pipe team and was a big part of the team also. 

From the UK onto France was the next big move for Frank, where he went to work for Thomas Trapenard, gaining more experience in race riding, and plenty of schooling of young horses as well. Frank spent three months with Trapenard, and made the decision then to move back to the Emerald Isle, as home is where the heart is, Hayes commented. 

When back here in Ireland Frank started making new connections with trainers like Shane Duffy and John Joe Walsh, with riding out for both trainers, going away galloping horses and schooling horses on a daily basis. Frank still held his National Hunt Jockeys Licence and also rode a lot on the track for both trainers and riding winners for them as well. While riding out for Shane Duffy and John Joe Walsh, Hayes was not the type of man to lay idle and started his mornings in Philip Fenton’s yard where he would ride out five or six lots each day before travelling to County Laois, and Cork. Nine years on Frank is still a big part of the Fenton team and still rides out for Philip, and not to forget he still rides out the odd time for Shane Duffy.

Frank Hayes pictured riding one of his many winners

As I got into the Philip Fenton yard on Saturday afternoon I was met by Frank and one of Philip Fenton’s conditional jockeys Niall Moore, a firm handshake and a smile from two nice and hard working lads. Frank brought me down to his yard at the bottom of Philips yard where he has five stables where he trains his own horses from. Straight away I could see how well kept the yard was, and more importantly how well his horses looked and how happy and relaxed they were in their stables. Talking me through each horse, their pedigrees, where they have run in the past and where they could possibly run in the future. Straight away I got a flashback to when Frank first stepped into Eoin Griffin’s yard at the age of sixteen, and thought to myself he’s no longer the teenager I knew years ago, he’s a man with a good head on his shoulders and is going to make a real go of training. From the yard I followed Frank and Niall up to the top of the gallops. They did two circuits on the circular gallop and after the second circuit they joined onto the straight on the gallop. The gallop is roughly a mile altogether with the circle and the straight and has a woodchip surface which is second to none. Across from the straight on the gallop there’s a strip of fences and hurdles for horses to school over as well. I watched two lots ride out on the gallops, and I could see how a horse would get fit in no time as there’s a climb on the straight. Racing fans will remember Dunguib and Last Instalment both trained by Philip Fenton, who were both extremely good horses and trained on the same gallops as Hayes is using now, so it can only be a positive look to the future for the young Thurles man. 

Shadows Return winning under Frank Hayes

After watching Frank’s horses riding out I interviewed Frank and asked him, how his new career in training was going? Hayes said, I am holding a restricted National Hunt Licence, and I have been very fortunate to ride as a jockey for over twenty years here in Ireland, the UK and France. When I came back home I was finding it tough to keep the rides going and found that the rides on the track were drying up. I decided I wanted to train horses as it was always something I wanted to do, as I was pre training and breaking horses for Shane Duffy for a long time, and Shane has been so helpful and good to me since returning home and I have learned a lot from Shane while working for him and has given me a lot of good life skills along the way. The job here at Philip’s yard was advertised, so I decided to come here for a while, and I am here nine years now, Hayes added, Philip has been so good to me, that I look up to him as a father figure and has been so helpful to me regarding the daily running of a yard, management, and entering horses into races. Denise Power who is Philip’s head-lass has shown me so much since I came to the yard for example bandaging horses, and the nutrition for horses as well which is so important. Frank’s wife Shauna has been such a huge help to him as well regarding with the nutrition of horses as she has a very keen interest in horses too, so we sat down and went over the whole regime of feeding horses, and incorporate such things like Beet Pulp, Carron Oil and Alfa A,, which are the little things that help the average type horse get better, because at the end of the day horses are athletes and need to be treated like athletes. I asked Frank, which does he prefer, the training side of things, or do you miss riding as a jockey? Hayes didn’t hesitate and answered honestly no I have to say when I gave up riding, I decided there and then I had enough, my body had enough. I sat down with my dad Liam and my wife Shauna and told them honestly, look I just had enough, that it’s very hard when you’re not riding good horses, and not going racing every day as a jockey, it’s demoralising in a way and can get in on you. Hayes continued and said, he found himself really enjoying preparing young horses and getting them ready for the track, which is why I went down the route of training, and could see how I could incorporate things into his own regime of training. Frank’s dad Liam used to train a few point to pointers and had a small bit of success, which is nice because he can go to him and receive good advice from him. Adding that he has had a lot of good people around him and have steered him in the right direction.

My final question to Frank was, how much of a help is it to be using the facilities here at Philip’s yard in your daily training for your horses? Frank said, it’s a huge help to me as Philip’s facilities here are second to none, with a woodchip surface gallop of almost a mile, with a two furlong straight joining onto a circle gallop and a two furlong straight coming off the circular gallop with a hill to finish. I am very lucky that Philip lets me use the majority of his facilities here including the horse walkers, schooling facilities of hurdles and fences, and a schooling ring as well to school my horses and educate them to get their feet off the ground. It’s a massive help to me, and Philip has been so good to me with letting me train from his bottom yard here just over the past two months. I am very grateful because I have the use of quality facilities, whereas before I moved my horses into the yard, I would be paying to use other gallops and bringing horses away schooling, it all adds up especially with filling the jeep with diesel as well to take horses away. 

As I left the yard I said to myself, Frank Hayes is still the same genuine, polite, well mannered, extremely hard-working young man who I worked with many years ago, and has never changed only matured, and is certainly going in the right direction with his new career as a trainer.


On The Gallops With Former Jockey Frank Hayes 

Sign Up To Ireland’s First Ever Grassroots Equine Magazine!

Written by Grassroots Members for Grassroots Members!!

Your subscription is 100% Free for our first year, No credit card details required.