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Hayes savouring every moment of Oaks glory with Ezeliya

Hayes savouring every moment of Oaks glory with Ezeliya
Hayes savouring every moment of Oaks glory with Ezeliya

Chris Hayes is no stranger to Classic success on home soil but thoroughly relished Epsom glory aboard Ezeliya as another Dermot Weld filly provided him with a moment to savour in the Betfred Oaks.

A key player in veteran trainer Weld’s operation, the 36-year-old opened his Classic account back in 2013 in the Irish St Leger aboard the Rosewell House master’s Voleuse De Coeurs.

Although big-race victories aboard the likes of Sole Power, Awtaad and Search For A Song kept the Group One races coming, it is in the past three seasons where Hayes has established his position as Weld’s go-to man on the big occasion.

First came Homeless Songs who powered to the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2022, while a year later Tahiyra would provide a repeat.

Now Hayes might arguably have the best of them all as an ally in Ezeliya, as he recorded his first British Classic in somewhat facile fashion, with the rider never having a “moment’s doubt” about the result in the closing stages.

“It was copybook, it was like a bit of work, she relaxed beautifully did everything well and made me look good,” he said.

“She settled really well going down to the start, she settled that well the other jockeys were commenting on her going down to the start.

“She was the first horse loaded into the stalls and she was quiet, she jumped well, relaxed. I didn’t want to light her up going up the hill and I was tracked out wider than ideal, but it was a fresh strip of ground and I was getting a lovely bit of cover from Hector (Crouch, on You Got To Me).

“I angled out sooner than I wanted to, but I could feel Tom (Marquand, on eventual third War Chimes) coming down my outside and I wanted to keep the rhythm she had. She moved forward quicker than I thought she was going to and I never had a moment’s doubt. Once she got to the furlong pole I knew there was nothing going to come and catch her at the finish.

“It took me right to the end of the pull-up area to pull-up and that is probably because I was celebrating as well, but she had a good bit of petrol left and was brilliant.”

It was just Hayes’ second Oaks ride after subsequent Breeders’ Cup heroine Tarnawa’s down-the-field finish in 2011, and it is somewhat fitting it is in the same famous Aga Khan silks that the Irishman is now thriving on a regular basis.

Tahiyra’s almost flawless career highlighted Hayes’ cool head on the big occasion and he is now a much more experienced pilot than the one who was cruelly denied Derby glory aboard Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon in 2019.

Jockey Chris Hayes (left) and trainer Dermot Weld with the Oaks trophy
Jockey Chris Hayes (left) and trainer Dermot Weld with the Oaks trophy (Steven Paston for the Jockey Club/PA)

“I had a nightmare here four or five years ago on Madhmoon, but that makes up for that,” continued Hayes.

“I thought I had the race won and Seamie Heffernan (aboard Anthony Van Dyck) came down my inside. It’s not a Derby but an Oaks, it’s as good as I’m going to get.

“It’s unbelievable to ride for the connections I’m riding for and the faith they have put in me, not only today but every day. It feels like I’m finally getting on good horses and I hope I’m doing it justice.

“It’s hard to compare horses, but she is definitely right up there (as the best I’ve ridden).”

Hayes let out a celebration fitting of the Classic honours he had just secured crossing the line and although trying his best to remain the level-headed jockey he has become, could not resist letting out an adrenaline-fuelled roar.

He added: “I actually said if she wins I will be really cool, calm and collected like Mick Kinane, but this is very unique and it was just a surge of adrenaline the last 50 yards – I had to do something.”

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