A day to remember for Gray
Kiwi trainer crosses 800-win milestone at Kranji before high-fiving with Silent Is Gold
Stephen Gray has enjoyed several defining moments in his feted training career, but to him, Saturday will be up there with one of his best days in the office.
Not only did the Kiwi trainer reach a significant milestone when his fourth winner Infinite Wisdom brought him his 800th win in Singapore, but he also put the cherry on the top in the day’s main event with Silent In Gold making it five for his best haul ever.
The 58-year-old is Kranji’s longest-serving expat trainer after Michael Clements.
When the Waverley native landed in Singapore in 2000 after winning 411 races with his father Kevin, little did he know he would one day almost double that score at his new adopted country.
“It’s a big thrill. I told my wife Bridget Silent Is Gold was my best chance,” said Gray. “I told her maybe she should come to the races today, but it’s a pity she didn’t feel well.
“I still didn’t think we’d do it today, though. We thought we could get one or two.
“But as they won one after the other, I thought, okay I’ll take that.”
After Gray’s first two runners Ksatria and Our Pinnacle finished out of the placings, Tributo ($14), Prioritize ($17) and Retallica ($17) began the juggernaut to edge him right onto the cusp of the landmark on 799 winners.
Last-start winner April stood a fair chance of taking Gray to the magical mark, but he misfired.
It did not matter in the end. Long shot Infinite Wisdom ($82) got into a winning mood in the very next race, the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race over 1,100m, admitting Gray into the exclusive 800-win club.
Only three other Kranji trainers were in that elite band before him – the late Laurie Laxon (1,263 wins), Patrick Shaw (830 wins) and Steven Burridge (820 wins).
Still, the Group 1 accolades – two Singapore Derbies with Lim’s Prestige (2007) and Hard Too Think (2021), Lim’s Cruiser’s two Lion City Cups (2017 and 2018) and Bahana’s Singapore Gold Cup (2016) win – or his Ascot trip with Emperor Max (2015) when he had tea with the late Queen Elizabeth II would be hard to match.
But, at a time when Kranji racing is trying to rebound from three painful years under the Covid-19 yoke, Saturday’s feat will hold a special place on his mantelpiece.
When he was batting at an average of 50 winners per season, and inspired by Laxon and Shaw, he even thought 1,000 winners were not a far-flung dream.
However, when the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, record pursuits were quickly replaced by survival mode.
“This record means a lot because the last three years have been very, very tough,” said Gray.
“It’s an honour to be in the company of those good trainers, who are also good friends.
“I often say to myself I would like to train 1,000 winners here and retire. But the last three years have put a dampener on that.”
Gray said he owed his success to good loyal staff who had stayed with him through thick and thin.
“Some of my staff have been with me for so long, two of them for 23 years,” he said.
“Some have dropped off, some have passed on. I’ve seen so many changes.
“It’s a big buzz for them. I didn’t think I could do it, but I’m pretty chuffed by that.”
Likewise, Gray could not raise a toast without saluting Infinite Wisdom’s owner, who happens to be best mate and staunchest supporter – Briton Paul Hickman.
“My biggest thrill was to do it with Paul. I was cheering the horse like he won a Gold Cup,” he said.
“It’s so fitting his horse won that race. We also love his wife April, and our kids grew up together.
“Paul and I had only one argument all these years, but he’s stayed with me.”
With the five-timer a feat in itself on any given day, Silent Is Gold’s ($13) gutsy win in the $70,000 Class 3 race (1,200m) was not overlooked.
“I told the Hong Kong owner I was confident. The horse was really well, he’s well handicapped and had the right draw,” said Gray.
“Ronnie (Stewart) also rode him beautifully. This horse tries so hard and today he had a clear run.”
Following his prolific harvest, Gray has leapfrogged from sixth to second spot on the trainer’s log on 11 winners, only three behind leader Michael Clements.
Saturday's Singapore Results: satres19.pdf
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