john g. hayes, sr.
John G. Hayes, Sr. was born in Oshawa, Ontario on July 17, 1919. Known throughout the harness racing industry as "the Senator," he was the rare person who achieved great success as an owner, breeder, trainer, driver, and executive. He was respected by his colleagues for his honesty and candor. A flight engineer in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, Hayes retired to dairy farming after injuring his back in a training flight. From there he went on to become first an owner and then a trainer and driver of Standardbreds.
On the track, Hayes was best known for training and racing Strike Out, who set a world record 1:56.3h in winning the 1972 Little Brown Jug. Hayes, who would become the first Canadian to own and train a Little Brown Jug winner, had the wisdom to turn the reins over to 1986 Hall of Famer Keith Waples for the prestigious race. Hayes drove Alley Fighter, another colt from his stable. After the race he made his now-famous statement that he would rather win the Little Brown Jug than go to heaven.
Hayes also co-owned 1981 Meadowlands Pace winner Conquered and 1984 North America Cup winner Legal Notice, both of whom were trained and driven by his son, Dr. John Hayes. Other notable Standardbreds owned or co-owned by John G. Hayes, Sr., were Alley Fighter, Penn Hanover, League Leader, Keystone Pat, Striking Force, Buxom Beauty, Spindletop Joe, Commander Dell, Airy Way, Sharp N Smart, Speed King, Wilton Royale, Luxury, Bret's Amour, Proposal, Joule, Be My Choice, Striking Sun, Tyrant, Striking Force, Oil Strike, No Hitter, Hoot Hanover, Neros Jay, No Standing Around, Touch of Pleasure, Memphis Flash, Little Black Book, League Leader and Natchez Gambler.
In 1959, with partners Bob and Conrad Shapiro, Hayes formed the Beejay Stable, a major breeding and racing operation in North America. After twenty-five years of racing together they formed the Quarter Century Club for their racing stock. The partnership also had an ownership interest in Tattersalls Sales Company of Lexington, Kentucky as well as stallion connections with Hill Farm in Ohio, Nettle Creek Farm in Illinois, Castleton in Kentucky, and Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania, (through an ownership share in Albatross). Beejay also had stallion interests in Australia. Hayes traveled widely there and in New Zealand, where he was well-known and highly respected. Beejay sold its entire breeding stock to Walnut Hall Farm in 1987.
John Hayes, Sr. was one of the founding members of the original harness horsemen's association in Quebec in the 1950s. He was vice-chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission from 1986-91 and was also president of the Canadian Trotting Association (now Standardbred Canada) from 1980-1986. He led the drive to enhance the CTA's computer systems and fought vigorously to return the Maritime Provinces to Canadian jurisdiction. He was the first Canadian inducted into the Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame. That honor came in 1990. The following year he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
John Hayes, Sr. died in Grimsby, Ontario on December 8, 1998 at age 79.