Type: Bay Colt
Sire/Dam: Never Bend / Milan Mill (Princequillo)
Owner: Mr Paul Mellon
Widely recognised as one of the greatest thoroughbreds of the modern day, Mill Reef was bred and owned by Paul Mellon. Having arrived at Kingsclere in the winter of 1969 it was apparent even by the spring of the following year that this was colt of exceptional potential.
His racecourse debut at Salisbury in May confirmed this promise as he won easily from the highly regarded Fireside Chat. Victory in the Coventry Stakes (Gr3) at Royal Ascot followed prior to suffering his one and only defeat as a two year old at the hands of My Swallow in the Prix Robert Papin (Gr2) at Maisons-Laffite in France.
The Gimcrack Stakes (Gr2) at York was chosen as his next race and this famous event would soon tell connections whether or not Mill Reef was a true champion or just a flash in the pan. The little colt answered any questions by winning in truly startling fashion from a horse who was to become one of the leading sprinters the following year. After this performance there could be little doubt in anyone's mind that Mill Reef was a truly exceptional racehorse. Facile wins in the Imperial Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr1) saw Kingsclere once again with a serious classic candidate and Mill Reef was crowned the champion two year old of 1970.
The 1971 2,000 Guineas was as eagerly awaited as any Classic in recent years. Mill Reef had won his trial race The Greenham Stakes (Gr3) at Newbury in good style and was primed to gain revenge on My Swallow for that narrow defeat in France. Major Dick Hern also ran the unbeaten and highly regarded Brigadier Gerard and there was a fancied runner from the all conquering yard of Vincent O'Brien called Minsky. The race itself lived up to all expectations and whilst Mill Reef got the better of his duel with My Swallow up the middle of the Rowley Mile he could not match the well timed run of 'The Brigadier' and Joe Mercer racing up the stands rail.
Whilst a huge disappointment at the time, the subsequent achievements of the first and second surely make this one of the finest renewals of the great race to be witnessed. Sadly and in spite of many efforts to stage a re-match, Mill Reef was denied the chance to try and gain revenge on a horse that is widely regarded as the greatest miler of the modern era. Mill Reef went next to Epsom in an attempt to secure his own place in turf history by winning Derby Stakes (Gr1) at Epsom. With doubts about his ability to stay the mile and a half, Mill Reef although favourite was a reasonably generous 100/30 against; the last time that he would ever start at that sort of price! Quickening clear of Linden Tree inside the distance Mill Reef went on to win by a comfortable 3 lengths and put any pre race stamina doubts firmly to rest. The Eclipse Stakes (Gr1) at Sandown provided a test against the older generation which he passed with flying colours by slamming the French champion Caro by four lengths.
It was the same story in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Gr1); another facile victory saw Mill Reef being compared with the greats recent years such as Sea Bird and Nijinsky. However, if he were to truly warrant such comparisons then he would have to win the biggest all age contest of the year, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Gr1). On the day not even the crack French filly Pistol Packer could live with the majestic Mill Reef and he was crowned the Champion Racehorse of Europe 1971. His ever sporting owner bucked the growing fashion of retiring champions to stud at the end of their three year old careers and the 'little horse' raced on in 1972. Sadly however and inspite of winning two Group One races (including the Prix Ganay by ten lengths!), Mill Reef's year was something of an anti climax. Plagued by both virus and injury which prevented any re match with Brigadier Gerard, the year ended in disaster when Mill Reef fractured a foreleg in a piece of work on the gallops at Kingsclere. Thankfully he was saved after a ten hour operation to insert three screws into the fetlock and was retired for stud duties to the National Stud in Newmarket. To this day the legacy of Mill Reef lives on as his name persists in many of the great pedigrees in Europe and beyond. Mill Reef was a truly great racehorse and became a giant influence in the thoroughbred world.