John Hawkes, Australian Horse Trainer
The history of Australian horse racing is rich in stories of horses, owners, trainers and jockeys that have made contributions to the sport worthy of being preserved for future generations. John Hawkes is one of these persons.
Names like Phar Lap, Makybe Diva and Tulloch are immediately recognizable among horses. T. J. Smith and Bart Cummings are trainers whose names even a non punter could easily identify. Jockeys named Mick Dittman, Roy Higgins and Moore are national heroes.
A unique spin to these famous characters is the story of John Hawkes. What makes it so is that he is one of the few who served in the role of trainer and jockey simultaneously during the time when it was possible to hold licenses for both.
His results as a jockey in Adelaide did not put him among the elite top echelon of jockeys, but when John Hawkes decided to concentrate on training in the 1972-73 season, his true talents began to revel themselves and impressive results soon began to accumulate.
John Hawkes made a fast break into the ranks of Group 1 winning trainers, notching the 1972 VRC Oaks courtesy of Toltrice. He also won the South Australian Jockey Club Oaks through his skill in preparing Little Papoose for the track.
He duplicated this in 1978 with Runaway Bridge. 1975 also produced respectable results. He trained Galena Boy in that horse's victory in the Victoria Derby. 1982 produced a win in the SAJC South Australian Derby.
Throughout the 1980's John Hawkes consistently competed for the South Australia Trainer's premiership where he repeatedly challenged for top position.
In 1989, John Hawkes made a strategically wise move, relocating to Melbourne, where he formed a formidable and long lasting venture with owners Bob and Jack Ingham. This collaboration was responsible for Hawkes' amassing no less than 9 Sydney premierships.
John Hawkes managed stables in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for the Inghams. During this period from 1989 to 2007, Hawkes began to compile the record that made him famous.
Theirs was one of the most successful owner-trainer relationships of all time.
John Hawkes Career Statistics
Over 3000 wins
Over $20 million in winnings
Ninety plus Group 1 wins and counting
Set record for single season earnings of over 11 million in 1998-99
Record breaking 334 victories in 2001-02
Winner of three VRC Oaks over a 28 year span - 1972 Toltrice, 1999 Tributes, 2000 Lovelorn
Two time Victoria Derby winner - 1975 Galena Boy, 1998 Arena
Won the Coolmore Lightning Stakes in 2001 training Sports
Two Golden Slipper Stakes - 2007 with Forensic and 1997 with Guineas.
Most Notable Thoroughbreds
John Hawkes was the trainer for Octagon. This horse made its debut in late 1994, and won races such as the Todman Trial, the Sires Produce Stakes and put up close seconds in the STC Golden Slipper Stakes and AJC Champagne Stakes, leading to his being selected as the Australian Champion 2 Year Old. He won the 1995 Cox Plate and The BMW.
In 1996, he was honoured as the Australian Champion 3 Year Old, Australian Horse of the Year and became the last horse to date to win the Australian Triple Crown. He retired to stud after posting 14 wins out of 28 starts, including 10 Group 1, seven second place finished in Group 1 and 2, and one third place finish.
He posted a record of almost 6 million in purse money. Octagonal sired a colt that was named Lonhro that one-upped his dad by winning 11 Group 1 races, including the George Ryder Stakes in consecutive years (2003-04).
He was also awarded Australian Racehorse of the Year honours in 2004, as well as Australian Champion Three Year Old in 2002. His record was winning 26 out of 35 starts, eclipsing the records of Hall of Fame horses Kingston Town, Phar Lap and Tulloch.
It is very entertaining to think about whether these two Thoroughbreds made the trainer look good or whether the trainer took good horses and got the maximum results from them.
Racing history is chock full of horses who failed to meet expectations despite being accorded "can't miss" status and others who were written off early only to prove critics wrong. In the case of John Hawkes and his two major champions, it is fair to consider that good fourtune played a role, but considering Hawkes 3000 plus victories, it is safe to say he had a keen eye for horses.
Seven other horses have won Group 1 events for Hawkes, so there's additional proof that it wasn't just the good fortune that completely accounts for Octagonal and Lonhro.
John Hawkes left the Inghams after the 2006-07 season after racking up 153 wins. He has gone on to start his own training enterprise with his sons.