Trainer's death shocks industry
The death on Sunday of trainer Murray Gray has rocked Southland's harness racing industry.
He trained professionally at Ryal Bush and produced a long list of winners. His horses often caught the attention of buyers.
Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell was ''shocked'' to learn of Gray's death.
''I got to know Murray through a handicapping sub committee and the owners' association. He was always very friendly, professional and genuine,'' Rennell said yesterday.
Top Auckland reinsman Tony Herlihy first met Gray in the early 1990s. During that time Gray's glamour pacer, Giovanetto, raced against Chokin, driven by Herlihy, in the 2-Year-Old Sires' Stakes Series. Giovanetto finished third to Chokin in the final at Alexandra Park in 1991.
They filled the same placings in the 2-Year-Old Championship at Alexandra Park. Their rivalry continued in the Sires' Stakes 3-Year-Old Final at Addington, with Chokin winning and Giovanetto finishing second.
The Southland star was third in Chokin's 1993 New Zealand Cup, while a year earlier, Giovanetto ran second to Blossom Lady in the Cup.
''Murray was a helluva nice guy. It's very sad,'' Herlihy said.
Herlihy's brother-in-law, Auckland trainer Barry Purdon, won two Miracle Miles in Sydney with Giovanetto's half-brother, Holmes DG (32 wins). Gray gave Holmes DG one start, for a second at Forbury Park, before the pacer was sold to clients of Purdon in 1997.
Riversdale owner-breeders Charlie and Ailsa Smaill have raced horses from Gray's stable for at least 15 years.
''It was Murray's encouragement that gave me confidence to keep training Jaccka Justy,'' Charlie Smaill said.
Smaill, who trains one or two horses at Riversdale, prepared Jaccka Justy to win six races in the past year.
''Murray could get horses up and running, qualify them and sell them. He had good contacts for selling.
''He'll be sadly missed.''
Other tributes to Gray include:
Southern Harness chief executive Russell Freeman: ''Murray was well-respected in harness racing. He was easy to get along with _ a good guy.''
Trainer-driver Allan Beck: ''He was always easy to drive for. Was understanding if things went wrong (in a race), he never complained. It's tragic what's happened.''
Bloodstock agent and breeder Bob McArdle: ''He was one of the true gentleman I have dealt with. I didn't need a contract with him, his handshake was all I needed. He was very unique.''
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