Trainer David Hayes has managed to save his multi mullion dollar racing stock as bush fires destroyed a third of his Lindsay Park training complex at Euroa.
Hayes had just return from Hong Kong where his charge Criterion ran third to Designs On Rome in the Group 1 HK$25m Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin last Sunday and joined staff in moving horses to a safe area.
Hayes’ racing manager Ryan Moore reported that sixty horses had to be moved from the property and Hayes with the help of staff members working until 2.30am to move the horses to safety.
“All staff and horses are fine, we were quite lucky,” Moore told Racing Network.
“At one stage I was sitting on the back of David’s ute with Arctic Song trotting down a laneway into the yards with a lot the two-year-olds following to get them out of the burning paddocks.
“It was chaos, very intense for a fair while. We didn’t finish until around 2:30am.
“It is still smouldering around the farm. As long as the wind doesn’t pick up today, we should be alright.”
The situation turned critical on Tuesday afternoon when the wind changed and even though the fire is now under control, a sudden change in wind could see the fire flare up again.
“The mountains around the property were on fire and when the winds shifted towards our place we had grass fires that were just so hot and intense and hard to fight that we retreated and just let the horses go freestyle,” Hayes told Racing Ahead.
“We basically went into save the horses mode and let them run free for a few hours and once the fire passed we rounded them all up and remarkably there were no injuries and the fire plan worked. We were very lucky.
“None of the real infrastructure was damaged, the stables were well protected but the outlying paddocks and fences were lost.”
Graham Neil form the Country Fire Authority said that the unpredictable winds and the difficult terrain were the main problems for fire fighters who were concentrating on saving lives and properties.
“With the unpredictability of the local winds, it is very difficult to contain,” Neil the ABC News.
“We’re trying to prevent the fire from causing any loss of life or property at the moment.”
Despite the overnight drama it was business as usual this morning with Hayes able to conduct normal trackwork sessions and he has resting paddocks available to replace the burn out ones.
“We had a normal track morning this morning,” Hayes said.
“We’re putting all the horses in allocated paddocks that haven’t been affected but I always rest about 40% of the property so there’s enough room for the horses.”
Hayes and co-trainer Tom Dabernig have three runners at Mornington today, first starter Hong Kong Captain in Race 2, Northern Lyric, a winner at his last two starts, in Race 7 and the consistent Purple Smile in Race 8.
Hayes will also have three runners at Moonee Valley on Friday night with For Lulu against the three year fillies in Race 2, Empire Rock in Race 4 and Bulls ‘N’ Bears in Race 5.
And at Flemington on Saturday Hayes and Dabernig will saddle up two first starters, Call Me Anything and Claudia Jean in the $80,000 Christmas Season 2yo Plate (1000m), Nicamorae in the $80,000 Beachside Fillies and Mares Handicap (1000m) and Churchill Dancer in the $80,000 Fiesta Star BenchMark 78 Handicap (1200m).