Sir Eric Parker, a successful owner/breeder and long-term ROA council member and former President, died on Thursday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 81.

Sir Eric had just returned from the Arqana August Sale in Deauville where he had gained great pleasure seeing his Crimbourne Stud sell its highest price yearling ever at public auction. A member of the ROA Council since 1994 and President of the ROA between 1998 and 2001, he retired at July’s AGM.

ROA President Rachel Hood said: “Everybody at the ROA is devastated to learn of Sir Eric’s passing. His personal bravery in his fight against illness has been an example to us all and, no matter how unwell he felt, it never diminished his drive and determination to improve the sport he cared so passionately about. His greatest love was for his wife, Marlene, and his family, and our hearts go out to them all at this incredibly sad time.”

Also paying tribute to Sir Eric was Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of the BHA, who said: “Our great sport and industry has lost one of its finest – and fiercest – advocates. Sir Eric was an inspiring figure, resolute to the end in his belief in what was right for British racing and its long-term success. This passion was matched only by his rightful pride in what he had built up at Crimbourne Stud, and he leaves a wonderful legacy. Our thoughts at this time are with his family, friends and many colleagues, particularly at the ROA.”

A racehorse owner for 43 years, Sir Eric enjoyed major successes on the Flat and over jumps, including winning the 1991 Grand National with Seagram, the Whitbread Gold Cup with Topsham Bay. He also owned dual Group 1 winning miler Indian Lodge and bred Prix Jean Prat winner Havana Gold, who is now standing as a stallion at Tweenhills Stud.

Michael Harris, past ROA Chief Executive, added his own moving tribute. He said: “Sir Eric was my friend and mentor. He was the most outstanding person I ever worked with. He was tough, honest and very talented. He had enormous drive and energy, wisdom and compassion. He had a grasp of racing politics and finance that few others could match. He was an unremitting supporter of racehorse owners and understood why the owner was at the centre of the industry.

“Just before I joined the ROA from the Racing Post I met Sir Eric for the first time at his beautiful Crimbourne Stud in West Sussex. I knew little about him before our first meeting other than he was a racehorse owner of some standing and had won the Grand National with Seagram in 1991. I also knew he had a distinguished career in business for which he had received a knighthood. A bit more homework would have allowed me to discover just how extensive his business career was and I might have been a little more daunted by the prospect of that first meeting. My concern would have been unfounded because we struck up a great working relationship from the first day.

“Sir Eric had been ill for some time and one ought not to be that shocked that he has eventually given up the fight but, he fought like no other person I’ve ever known to cling onto life. The racing world will be much the poorer without him.”