william r. hayes ii
William R. "Bill" Hayes II came from a DuQuoin, Illinois family in which the trotter was worshipped and harness racing was part of everyday conversation. His grandfather, William R. "Will" Hayes, who founded and developed Hayes Fair Acres Stable, has the distinction of being the first owner to win both trotting's Hambletonian Stake (Lusty Song driven by Delvin Miller) and pacing's Little Brown Jug (Dudley Hanover driven by Delvin Miller) in the same year (1950). Will also established the DuQuoin State Fair in 1923, thus bringing Grand Circuit Harness Racing to southern Illinois. Bill's father, E. J. (Gene), and uncle Don M., were instrumental in moving the Hambletonian Stake, harness racing's premier trotting race, from Good Time Park in Goshen, New York to DuQuoin in 1957. Bill eagerly joined the team after graduating from the University of Illinois in 1958.
The Hayes family owned a Coca-Cola franchise; and upon the untimely death of Gene in l964 and Don three years later in a plane crash, Bill Hayes stepped up to become company president. He also assumed the role of president of the DuQuoin State Fair and operator of its star event, the Hambletonian Stake. Hayes was just thirty years old.
Over the years Hayes Fair Acres had many top performing Standardbreds with Bill Hayes continuing the Hayes Fair Acres' tradition of breeding and racing successful race horses. The first filly he purchased was Desert Wind 2,1:59.3. Desert Wind raced in the 1971 inaugural Hambletonian Filly Stake. The race, later known as The Oaks, was one of the innovations at DuQuoin during Hayes' leadership tenure. It was considered a long overdue enhancement, giving attention to trotting fillies. Hayes Fair Acres also owned Victorious Lou, second dam of Valley Victory, and Victorious Leah, dam of top trotters Camp David and Kramer Nobless.
Trainers and owners loved taking their best horses to DuQuoin each summer. Not only did they enjoy racing on the beautiful mile track, they also enjoyed the famous Hayes hospitality on the more than 1,000 acres of exquisitely landscaped fairgrounds, some of which had been reclaimed by Hayes' grandfather from the devastation of strip mining.
In 1971, at the age of 35, William R. Hayes II was voted "Horseman of the Year" by the readers of The Horseman And Fair World. He was also a member of The Hambletonian Society, director of The Little Brown Jug Society, president of the Grand Circuit and a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, at that time known as The Hall of Fame of the Trotter.
Hayes served as president of the DuQuoin State Fair and Hayes Fair Acres through 1979, when both were sold. He remained director of racing at the fair through 1980, the 24th and last year the Hambletonian was held in DuQuoin. Because the loss of the Hambletonian weakened the DuQuoin racing program, Hayes worked with others to secure Illinois state legislation that provided the financing for a world-class trotting race to replace the famed stake. The World Trotting Derby was created and raced for the first time in 1981, the first year the Hambletonian Stake was held at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Hayes' selfless efforts to sustain premier racing at DuQuoin, a country-fair track surrounded by midwest cornfields, will long be remembered and appreciated by all who enjoyed the fine hospitality and witnessed the great racing he had been so determined to provide.
Bill Hayes died April 24, 1998 in Basalt, Colorado at the age of sixty-one. He was elected as an Immortal in July 2006.
Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2006 book, The 2003-2005 Immortals