Chris Hayes (born 11 August 1987) in County Limerick began his career riding in pony racing and went to the RACE training school. He joined the stable of Kevin Prendergast as an apprentice jockey in 2004 and was Irish champion apprentice in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2017 he became first jockey to Fozzie Stack, alongside his role as Prendergast's stable jockey.
What was your childhood ambition?
I wanted to be a Solicitor oddly enough but as soon as I saw pony racing that changed.
Growing up, who was your sporting hero?
I loved Mick Kinane and I’m still in awe of him now.
Do you have a mentor?
Pat Smullen and Mick Kinane are always there with advice when I need it.
What or where is your happy place?
Driving my tractor around my small farm.
What sparked your love of racing?
My dad bringing me to my first pony race. I loved watching them fly around and thankfully my dad bought me a pony soon after.
What horse put you on the map?
I’ve been lucky enough to ride some nice horses all through my career, but Crystal View gave me a great leg up as a 10 lb claimer.
Who is your favourite horse?
Awtaad – we won the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh together in 2016.
What was it like to ride in your first race?
Wasn’t too exciting I got left in the starting stalls and finished a furlong last. My second ride was a winner and that was just ecstasy.
How long does it take to learn race-riding tactics?
Pony racing helped me a lot and I’d like to think I’m tactically very aware
Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?
My first winner was my second ride and I pushed it most of the way. I looked so untidy, but I would not change a thing about it. It was unbelievable to walk back into that winner’s enclosure.
What is your most memorable racing moment?
Winning the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas on Awtaad. The reception we got that day was the stuff of dreams.
What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?
I’m torn between Limerick or Listowel - I always ride winners there.
If you weren’t a jockey what would you be?
If you could ride one horse, what would it be?
Enable. She’s different class
How do you cope with pressure?
I like to go through the form in detail and the bigger the race the busier I keep myself on the big day
What mental preparation do you do for the big days?
I like to ride out the morning of a big race and keep my routine normal. I get to the races early and once I’m in the weigh room I’m fairly relaxed from then on
How do you stay motivated?
Trying to find the next Awtaad keeps me motivated; he was a special horse and that’s why we do this job to try find special horses.
How do you deal with dips in form?
Dips in form are always going to happen the main thing to remember is your only as good as the horses you’re riding
Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?
Limerick winning the All-Ireland
Can you give us a Netflix/ film recommendation?
Peaky Blinders - I love it
What is your guilty pleasure?
I’ve a very sweet tooth so chocolate or sweets
Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?
Anything thing country. I love country music
What person do you admire the most and why?
I admire Pat Smullen he was a hero of mine on the track and in his cancer battle, you’d have to be in awe of the man.
Steak mash and veg.
What ambitions do you still have?
I’d love to be champion jockey. It’s very hard in Ireland but I’ll keep chipping away
What is the hidden gem of your home county?
It has to be the St. Senan’s community where I grew up. It’s a beautiful part of the world.
When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?
I think of my parents. I moved away from home at 15 so I often miss home.
How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?
I have a couple of broodmares so there keeping me busy.
If you had one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times of Covid-19, what would it be?
Stay at home. If we listen to the expert’s advice and do as we’re told we all be back to or normal lives a lot quicker.
If you were to go back to when you were 20 years old and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to enjoy the good days more. I’m my own biggest critic and I wish I enjoyed some of the winners and appreciate them a bit more than I did.
Favourite saying/ quote?
What’s for you won’t go by you.
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