The Ben and JD Hayes-trained Little Brose ran out a ready winner of the Gr.1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Sandown on Saturday, the tenth time the Hayes surname has claimed Victoria’s premier two-year-old race.
Ridden by Michael Dee, the son of popular New Zealand sire Per Incanto settled just forward of midfield one off the fence and enjoyed an unimpeded run in the home straight, striding clear for a comfortable length win over Don Corleone and Arkansaw Kid.
The Hayes brothers celebrated their second Group One success together, following their 2022 Doncaster Mile win with Mr Brightside.
Their father, David, won the Blue Diamond six times, while their grandfather, Colin, also won it on three occasions.
“I’ve got adrenaline, I’m just shaking,” Ben Hayes said post race. “I really felt like he was good enough to win, I felt like vomiting all day.
“It was a beautiful ride from Michael (Dee). For Little Brose to win so impressively, he’s just such an exciting horse.
“I’m thrilled for the whole team. It’s good to keep that family tradition going and win Blue Diamonds.”
Hayes reflected on how the stable prioritised improving their two-year-old results in their second season training together.
“JD and I sat down at the end of the season last year and said, ‘what can we improve on?’.
“We got our two-year-olds slightly wrong and we changed a couple of things, and I think our results have spoken for themselves.
“That’s our seventh individual (two-year-old) winner and most of them have been listed and group races, so we improved on that. I think it is huge going forward. Very exciting and I’m thrilled for my whole family.
“We work so hard and to do it in our second year of training as a partnership, it’s a big thrill.”
Dee said the race unfolded exactly how he planned it would from barrier seven.
“I wanted to be somewhat positive and be as close as I could without putting him out of our comfort zone,” Dee said.
“He travelled strong throughout. There was a bit of jostling there going to that first corner, but to this horse’s credit and Ben and JD, they’ve done an amazing job. To have the horse peaking on the right day, is a credit to them.
"He's a horse that takes everything in his stride. He never turns a hair. He just canters around to the gates lovely and he's just such a beautiful colt to ride.
"I'm sure it is onwards and upwards from here."
The Blue Diamond was Dee’s third Group One win this season, joining his successes aboard Durston (Caulfield Cup) and Manzoice (Victoria Derby) and the eighth elite-level victory of his career.
Little Brose is the sixth individual Group One winner for his sire Per Incanto, who stands at Sam and Catriona Williams Little Avondale Stud in Masterton.
Bred by New Zealander David Wallace, the colt is out of American Listed winner Mohegan Sky, a daughter of the relatively obscure sire Straight Man from a Seattle Dancer mare.
The colt’s Blue Diamond success is yet another feather in the cap of the Group winning Street Cry stallion Per Incanto and a line in the sand moment for the already popular sire.
“It changes the perception and the way in which people look at Per Incanto colts now,” a delighted Sam Williams said from Sandown.
“You will have stallion syndicates looking at them because he has produced a Group One winning two-year-old of the pinnacle juvenile race in Melbourne. It’s enormous.”
Retired to stud in 2011 at a modest service fee of $4,000+GST, Per Incanto has been a mainstay towards the top of New Zealand sire premierships, in addition to being the leading sire in Hong Kong by winners. On the back of outstanding racetrack results, the stallion’s service fee rose to $50,000+GST last season.
“I have been a believer in Per Incanto since the moment I saw him,” Williams said.
“He has produced the likes of Dal Cielo, Rocanto and Saracino who were all Group One performed two-year-old colts and were gelded as older horses.
“The stallion can certainly produce a colt and he can produce a colt with a good temperament, just like Little Brose.
“In the past they (yearling buyers) haven’t viewed them as stallion prospects, but now that attitude will change.
“I am just so proud of Per Incanto and it is so good for the New Zealand breeding industry.”
Williams also paid credit to the Hayes brothers and the wider team at Lindsay Park, with whom he has developed a good relationship.
“How well are they going! They are two guys with pedigrees in racing. They are so passionate and level-headed,” Williams said.
“It was great that JD Hayes and Josh Rix (bloodstock manager at Lindsay Park) made the effort to travel the length of the North Island late last year to visit a number of the New Zealand breeders and they came and stayed with us.
“The breeders of New Zealand have certainly taken to them, and they have been well-supported. I think they are two very smart young trainers and I wish them all the best.”
Sold on the Gold Coast for $200,000, Little Brose was identified by Kiwi bloodstock agent Dean Hawthorne, who works closely with Lindsay Park.
“There is a lot of New Zealand flavour to the story,” Williams said.
The studmaster is convinced that some divine intervention also played its part in the triumph, with Little Brose’ breeder David Wallace recently losing his wife Maddy after a battle with illness.
“The association between the Wallace family and the Williams family spans a long period of time and we have a very strong bond,” Williams said.
“They have been shareholders in Per Incanto right from day one.
“David and I are great mates and we go diving out at the coast together. Dave has been through some really tough times losing Maddy and I think this is just fantastic for him.
“I said to him afterwards there was someone who helped give that horse of yours a special ride today.”