End of an Era: Stephen Gray calls time on Singapore racing

Stephen Gray and wife Bridget. Photo courtesy of Stephen Gray Racing.
Stephen Gray and wife Bridget. Photo courtesy of Stephen Gray Racing.

New Zealand trainer Stephen Gray has announced that he will quit Singapore racing next month, with mental and financial pressures compounding factors leading to the end of his 24-year tenure at Kranji before its closure in October.

After Michael Clements’ departure in September, Gray became the ‘last man standing’ from the initial cohort of 19 at Kranji’s inception in 2000. This group included an honor roll featuring the late Malcolm Thwaites and Laurie Laxon, along with Charles Leck, Donald Baertschiger, Mick Kent Snr, and Pat Busuttin.

Throughout the years and his 825 career wins in Singapore, Gray has amassed 22 Group victories, six of which are at Group 1 level. Gray twice won the Singapore Derby, firstly in 2007 with Lim’s Prestige and then again in 2021 with Hard Too Think, who also won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in the same year.

He also achieved back-to-back wins in the Lion City Cups with Lim’s Cruiser in 2017 and 2018, and most notably, won the Singapore Gold Cup in 2016 with Bahana.

Gray also represented Singapore on the world stage with Emperor Max and Lim’s Cruiser, both starters at Royal Ascot, with the latter taking part in the Hong Kong Sprint on International Day in 2018.

On Monday, however, Gray officially informed the Singapore Turf Club that his final race meeting saddling up runners would be on April 27. Although it remains to be seen whether he will have a runner on the day.

Of the 20 or so horses remaining in Gray’s yard, four were transferred on Monday, while six will either be sold or retired to Malaysia in the coming weeks.

In an article penned by Michael Lee for The New Paper, Gray said: “The time is right. Economically, we can’t stay on, mentally, we’re done. I informed our owners and the club in a letter today (Monday).

“We could’ve left earlier, but we hung in there to see if there was any change or financial help to help us stay, like join up with another stable to have numbers.

“But, after a meeting with the authorities, I came home and told (wife) Bridget my head was getting messed up, I had to get out of here.

“She’s had enough, too, and she’s spent more than half her life here.

“We have costs, rentals, workmen’s insurance, and all that stuff. A stable of 20 to 25 horses is not sustainable – 30-40 horses is the right size to break even.

“If we were paid $20,000 to help our monthly cash flow, we could’ve stayed. I don’t know how some trainers survive, but we can’t go on.

“There was no support, we have no clarity what’ll happen until Oct 5. My owners just want to get out.”

With still plenty to give to the racing game, Gray’s future lies back in his native New Zealand, where he will train at a Palmerston North facility that he and his father Kevin purchased in 2006, aiming to have around 40 horses in work.

Author: iRace