Racing Post Obituary - Douglas Gray

Obituary: Death of breeding pioneer Douglas Gray, 94

Published: 18/10/2004 (Sport) Bruce Jackson

DOUGLAS GRAY, an influential breeder and former director of the National Stud, has died at the age of 94, writes Bruce Jackson.

Charles Robert Douglas Gray served as an officer in the Indian army and was a tireless worker for racing for more than 40 years.

His efforts helped bring about the establishment of the British Racing School and the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.

On his return from India in 1947 he retired from the army as a lieutenant-colonel, managed Sir David Wills's Hadrian Stud, and bought Stetchworth Park Stud, which he ran with his wife Joan from 1960 to 1982.

Gray was appointed director of the National Stud in 1970, succeeding Peter Burrell.

In that capacity he secured Mill Reef after his career-ending injury. That coup with American Paul Mellon's star was helped by Gray's long-held vision of bringing American breeding interests closer to Britain.

Gray sold Stetchworth Park Stud in 1982 to become the first director of the British Racing School that opened the doors to youngsters making their way to racing stables and the track.

Gray was renowned for the hard work which saw him serve on most of the leading racing and breeding trade bodies. He was a member of the BHB forerunner, the Bloodstock and Racehorse Industries Confederation (BRIC), the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, the Animal Health Trust, and the Horseracing Museum.

His contribution to racing, and breeding in particular, was acknowledged when he was the recipient of the prestigious Devonshire Award from the TBA in 1994.

Gray was responsible for nurturing the racing interests of many prominent racing people, including Newmarket chairman Peter Player, himself now a prominent breeder, and bloodstock agent David Minton.

Player paid tribute to his mentor yesterday. 'Douglas was an extraordinarily hard-working perfectionist,' he said. 'He was an extraordinary man who did so many things and did them better than anybody else. He was one of the first people to really bridge the Atlantic with many American breeders.

'During his time he was undoubtedly at the cutting edge. He was at the forefront in the 1950s and '60s of preparing horses for the sales, and moved that on considerably.

'I owe him my start in bloodstock when I arrived in Newmarket in 1969. He had the greatest influence on my career.'

Gray, who was born in Beijing, was a renowned horseman in the Indian army, and won the Kadir Cup for individual pig-sticking. He was later put in charge of the army's breeding operation in India.

He returned to Britain to ride his own horse Emancipator to finish third in the Grand Military Gold Cup in 1938 before falling at Becher's second time round in Battleship's Grand National.