At just 22 years old, James David (J.D) Hayes is fluent in Mandarin, is attending Harvard University next week, coaches his own Goulburn Valley League senior side and is part of racing royalty.
In saying that, the twin, who grew up wanting to be a jockey, is eager to create his own destiny at Euroa’s Lindsay Park Racing stables and by starting work at 4am every day, when he is not at university, he hopes to achieve that dream with his family’s motto in mind: ‘‘The future belongs to those who plan for it’’.
Born in Adelaide, Hayes was bound to fall in love with thoroughbreds. He was just six weeks old when his mother Prue left Australia with her four children to join her husband David in the mecca of horse racing — Hong Kong.
Hayes’ father had accepted an invitation to train in the world’s toughest racing environment in 1994. From a young age, Hayes would constantly follow his dad around, observing and learning as much as he could.
And when Hayes couldn’t be around his father, because kids were banned from racing in Hong Kong, he built a tree house with his brothers Will and Ben so they could watch the races from afar.
‘‘I have lived a pretty interesting life so far,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘I am only 22. I spent a lot of my life in Hong Kong, I have travelled. I love what I do and I hope I can continue to keep doing it for the rest of my life.’’
Like all active children, Hayes was relatively cheeky as a child. He had a search party looking for him when he became the first child to escape from the Hong Luke Yuen Kindergarten.
‘‘I’ve never really liked school, to be honest, and I didn’t like kinder either,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘I remember they had a huge fence and I was the only student to jump it and escape, so they built an even bigger one.’’
Growing up, Hayes was a self-proclaimed ‘‘gun’’ at soccer, dominating his much older Grade 6 Chinese friends on the one oval that he and the 12000 other students had to share at Australian International School Hong Kong.
‘‘It is a completely different lifestyle over there. It is hard to describe, really,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘The way they go about their day-to-day life, everything is so tight and congested. The schools are completely different.’’
From Hong Kong, Hayes moved to Melbourne and started at Grimwade House in Grade 4 and on his first day, he was like a child in a candy store, running around with so much space on offer.
‘‘I remember thinking when I first rocked up at school in Australia there was just so much space. We had three ovals and I was running around like crazy,’’ Hayes said.
It was at Grimwade where Hayes picked up a football properly, before playing for Glen Iris Gladiators’ under-11 team.
‘‘It was all soccer for me growing up until I came to Melbourne and that is when I found a real interest in football,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘Growing up with Will, we have always been the same age, we have had the same interests and what not, so we used to then always go out and have a kick together.
‘‘It is great to be a twin. As cliched as it sounds, it is like having a best mate around you all the time.’’
Will and Hayes guided the Gladiators to a grand final loss off the back of eight games and it was the latter’s form that earned him selection in the Victoria Metro under-12 state side.
‘‘I was lucky enough to play in the state side and I think that was probably the pinnacle of my career,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘Everyone grew and I didn’t, so I just battled away for a little while and managed to make the TAC Cup as a bottom-aged player for Sandringham Dragons.’’
Juggling school, riding duties on a weekend and football, Hayes decided to give TAC Cup football away, despite being selected as a top-age player, giving school football at Melbourne Grammar a crack.
Hayes went on to captain an undefeated Grammar side which featured AFL players such as Zach Merrett, Hugh Goddard, Ed Vickers-Willis and Ed Langdon.
‘‘I wasn’t named captain based on my ability, it was more of an attitude thing. I was at training on a regular basis and that is about it,’’ Hayes said with a laugh.
‘‘I was definitely not as good as some of the other boys who went on to get drafted.’’
Hayes and Will were then brought to Western Bulldogs’ VFL affiliate side Footscray by their Grammar assistant coach Brent Montgomery in 2014.
Luckily the pair snared contracts with the VFL side right away because soon after they caught glandular fever upon their return from the Gold Coast.
‘‘It was a bad run for us. We both got it at the same time not long after signing with Footscray,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘I can promise you, though, we weren’t kissing the same girl on the Gold Coast.’’
After overcoming the illness, Hayes played his first game against Essendon in which his direct opponent Leroy Jetta had 33 possessions, running riot on the first-gamer.
‘‘It was a tough initiation. He dominated on me that day, but I did manage to sell him the candy store before kicking a point — there is even proof on Twitter,’’ Hayes said.
Arguably Hayes’ best season with the VFL outfit was 2015, but the Dogs bowed out of finals in straight sets.
The following year Will played in Footscray’s premiership side, while Hayes was dropped for the penultimate game to accommodate Lin Jong’s inclusion.
‘‘It was a little disappointing, but that is football. Lin is an awesome bloke and the decision was justified in the end,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘The Doggies won, Jongy had I think 33 and was best on that day. It all worked out in the end.’’
Hayes left the Dogs at the end of last season to come ‘‘home’’, taking up the role as senior coach at Euroa Football Club, and in his first season he led the Magpies to a finals berth.
‘‘It has been really good. There is a lot of responsibilities that I have to work with, but I love it best when I am just out on the field doing what I enjoy most,’’ Hayes said.
Being so young, Hayes admitted it was a little hard at first earning the respect of senior players, but he felt the group adapted quite well.
‘‘To be honest, it was a little awkward at the start because I was this young guy coming in trying to run the show,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘But it is what it is. They couldn’t really jack up because I was put in that role.’’
The Magpies surprised many this season and Hayes feels that in his second season in charge they have the potential to go that one step further.
‘‘Our goal will be the premiership. We want to aim high and I think we can achieve it,’’ he said.
However, with the role as head coach comes more media responsibilities for Hayes and that is one thing he needs work on.
During a live broadcast with One FM, Hayes got his wires crossed before asking whether they could do the interview all over again.
‘‘I didn’t realise it was live,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘But gee, I feel like an idiot, I came into the room and I just said to the boys ‘you guys will never guess what I did’.’’
‘‘It was an absolute tongue twister. I remember I was talking about Nathan Gilliland at the time.’’
Regardless of whether he had a top on or off during an interview, Hayes had some diehard Footscray supporters come down to watch him play on a regular basis.
But now with the off-season well and truly under way Hayes will be spending some time in the United States with Merrett and the two boys will be visiting Harvard University on their travels.
‘‘Zach told Mum that he was doing a leadership course at Harvard that goes for two days, so Mum thought it would be a sensational idea to enrol me into it too,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘I am hoping to learn a thing or two while I am there. Hopefully I become a better person and I am sure it will hold me in good stead for the future.’’
Those leadership qualities may come in handy for Hayes once he embarks on the trainer journey on a full-time basis.
Hayes is majoring in financial planning and Chinese at Deakin University while partaking in a commerce degree, but it is at Lindsay Park where he hopes to see himself on a full-time basis.
‘‘That is the dream,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘I have that as a fall-back option, but I know I have got a lot of hard work to do before I can start helping Ben, Dad and Tom (Dabernig) out with some of the better horses.’’
Vega Magic and Redkirk Warrior are two of the better horses from the Lindsay Park stables and they are racing in tomorrow’s Everest — the world’s richest turf race which is worth a cool $10million — in Sydney.
‘‘It is a huge buzz for everyone. I will probably be at Caulfield, so I won’t be there with the rest of them in Sydney,’’ Hayes said.
Not only are the two aforementioned horses highly regarded, but so is Bold Sniper — the Queen’s horse.
Formerly under Gai Waterhouse, Bold Sniper was not firing a shot until trainers David, Ben and Tom took control.
‘‘It was a real buzz for Dad when it got offered to him and when he won his first race after 1000 days, he got a phone call from the Queen,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘He was shocked. She just thanked him, asked him what he did and what plans he has for it in the future.
‘‘I was a little disappointed she didn’t ask for me.’’
Sport has played a huge role in Hayes’ life, but the Euroa playing coach hopes that down the track he will be spending more time at city racing venues on Saturday afternoons rather than at Memorial Oval.
‘‘No disrespect to the football club, but that is the dream,’’ Hayes said.
‘‘If I spend more time down there in the years to come it will mean I’m hopefully on the right path to becoming a successful trainer.’’