Story by Chris Lomon / @ChrisLomon
Breeda Hayes hopes the time will come, the moment when she allows herself to dream big.
These days, the longtime Woodbine-based trainer is walking the line between optimism and pragmatism, hopeful of what could be in her future, but mindful of the journey that’s needed to take her there.
“It’s okay to allow yourself to dream,” said the Irish-born Hayes. “But I don’t think I’ll do that quite yet. There is still a lot of time between now and then.”
“Then,” in this instance, is August 22, the date of this year’s $1 million Queen’s Plate.
Hayes has a pair of promising hopefuls in the form of Credit River and Go Take Charge, both bred and owned by Garland Williamson (Hillsbrook Farms), each listed at 25-1 in the Queen’s Plate Winterbook.
But that’s where the similarities between the 3-year-olds end.
Credit River is by More Than Ready and out of Wonder Where Stakes winner Like a Gem, the dam of the Grade 1 winning millionaire turfer Hard Not to Like.
The initial plan was for Credit River to run in a maiden race last year at Woodbine. When the race didn’t fill, the connections decided to roll the dice and enter the rookie in the Ontario Racing Stakes.
Stepping into the starting gate at odds of 41-1, Credit River and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson got away last in the 5-furlong Inner Turf Course race.
For a time, it looked as though that’s where they’d stay.
As the field turned for home, Wilson swung Credit River to the outside in an attempt to rouse the first-time starter into action.
The move quickly paid off.
Credit River and Wilson methodically picked off their rivals one by one down the lane, culminating in a three-quarters of a length score in a final time of :57.06 over firm turf.
“This horse comes by his talent honestly,” said Wilson. “You can see it in the form; his mom [Like a Gem] was a multiple stakes winner that I used to ride here, and one of his siblings [half sister Hard Not to Like] was a grade 1 winner. So to see him flourish on the turf is no surprise.”
Credit River’s milestone moment was also one for a surprised Hayes, who celebrated her first career stakes win.
“The maiden race didn’t go, but he went and ran his eyeballs out. He showed up, or I should say, unexpectedly showed up. It was a fantastic run. Emma gave him what he wanted. Once he switched leads at the top of the lane, and Emma roused him, it was as though he said, ‘Okay, my dear, let’s go.’ She was so happy with him. She rode his mother and she was the same kind of horse. Once she switched her to the outside, it was a different horse. It seems both of them love to run on the outside.”
Credit River closed out his 2-year-old campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Cup & Saucer Stakes on October 10.
His stablemate Go Take Charge is by Will Take Charge out of Go Go Neigh.
The colt was seventh in his career bow on November 1, an eventful debut that saw him break inward at the start before hanging late in the 1 mile and 70-yard main track race.
There was less drama and more encouraging signs in Go Take Charge’s second start on November 20.
Under Sahin Civaci, he was fifth, rolling late in the 1 1/16-mile main track race, the final race of his 2-year-old campaign.
Go Take Charge and Credit River are back in Hayes’ Barn No. ?? on the Woodbine backstretch, training towards their respective 3-year-old debuts.
Hayes’ focus will be on the short term for both.
“We have take things day-by-day. We’re progressing with them. Credit River went away to [fellow trainer] Graham Motion for the winter, at Palm Meadows, and came back to me about two weeks ago. He had worked a handful or so of times. He’s back to me and we’re going forward with him. It was great to see him again.
“Go Take Charge is a maiden, but two turns is stamped all over him, being a half brother to Camp Creek [a stakes-winning son of Dunkirk, bred and owned by Williamson]. He’s a lovely individual. He was gelded over the winter, which he needed to get his mind on the job. I thought he ran a credible race in his last race of the 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing him run, hopefully, we can get a maiden allowance at 7/8ths for him, and we can go from there. Really, it’s great to have two very nice horses in my barn. Hopefully, it’s a big year for both of them.”
Two horses with two very different personalities, noted Hayes.
“They’re definitely opposites. They have different characters, for sure. Credit River is the more aggressive one. He’d be the underdog, the little man coming into the ring with big ideas, whereas the other lad is a big fella coming in with big ideas.”
As for Hayes, she’s a trainer with big hopes and a detailed Queen’s Plate plan.
She’s looking forward to the challenge of seeing Hillsbrook silks, times two, represented in Canada’s most historic horse race.
“I’m very grateful to Mr. Williamson for entrusting me with his horses. He breeds good horses. He invests a lot of money into the game and I say kudos to him for doing that. It would be wonderful to see his contributions to our sport showcased on Queen’s Plate Day.”
Until that Sunday in August comes, Hayes will have plenty on her plate, inside and outside of the racetrack.
Every day, along with her husband, John Hayes, she works until the cows come home.
The couple’s “paradise” is the last farm north of Highway 7 on Major Mackenzie Drive, about a 25-minute drive from Woodbine.
“Johnny, I couldn’t do any of what I do without him. He’s at the racetrack early every morning, helping me. What he does is invaluable. We run a cattle farm – there are about 60 beef cattle – where we live, so we’re busy. We also have a few broodmares with us here. There are plenty of farm animals around and it gives you a different perspective on the racing game. There’s a lot to be said for the farm life. Both of us are busy people, and that’s the way we like it. There’s always something going on and you just roll with it.”
It also happens to be the blueprint Hayes employs with her up-and-coming pair of Queen’s Plate hopefuls.
“Fingers crossed we can get there. Of course you dream about it becoming a reality. For now, there’s work to be done and that’s what I’ll focus on.”
And at some point, she hopes to let her thoughts go elsewhere.
“It’s okay to dream big. The great thing about this game is that’s what it allows you to do.”
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