Mill Reef’s trainer Ian Balding described the 1971 2000 Guineas as 'Probably the Best of them all'. The quality field of 6 included the leading three two year olds of 1970, My Swallow, Brigadier Gerard and his own Mill Reef.
Another interesting runner was the Irish raider Minsky, a full brother to the 1970 Triple Crown winner Nijinsky who was ridden by Lester Piggott. In total the six colts who lined up at the Rowley mile had won 27 of their 33 races.
Continuing our series of Q & A’s with Ian Balding our second blog focuses on the start of Mill Reef’s 3 year old career and that memorable 1971 2000 Guineas.
How did Mill Reef get on during the winter?
He wintered very well, looked more forward in his coat than anything else and ready to run early.
Why did you choose the Greenham Stakes as his first run, ahead say of running at Newmarket as a prep run for the 2000 Guineas
The Greenham was at our local course where I wanted people to see him and an easy journey (we usually sent them overnight to Newmarket).
After winning the Greenham Stakes by a comfortable 4 lengths what were your thoughts about the 2000 Guineas and his opponents on 1 May?
After he won the Greenham I can remember thinking- “If Mill Reef doesn’t win the 2000 Guineas, I don’t suppose I will ever train a classic winner”.
I have to admit that I thought My Swallow was the main danger and had no idea at that time what a great miler Brigadier Gerard would prove to be.
What do you make of the views of some journalists that Mill Reef and My Swallow cut their own throats on the day and made it easier for the winner Brigadier Gerard?
I didn’t ever tell Geoff Lewis what to do. We discussed it of course but I basically left it to him.
Whatever tactics we may have employed would not have worked – Brigadier Gerard (pictured above with Joe Mercer) was much the better horse at that distance.
On reflection in your own racing lifetime where would you rank the 1971 2000 Guineas?
My own, rather biased, feeling is that the 1971 2000 Guineas was probably the best of them all!
When did you then decide to run in the Derby and were there any plans to have another run before Epsom?
Geoff had a fall in the last race on 2000 Guineas Day and when I went to see him in hospital I can remember him saying “I don’t think he will have any problem staying 1 ½ miles.
TWO THOUSAND GUINEAS STAKES
1ST Brigadier Gerard W Hern J Mercer 11/2
2nd Mill Reef I Balding G Lewis 6/4 Fav
3rd My Swallow P Davey F Durr 2/1
5th Indian Ruler
6th Good Bond
Distances: 3l, 3/4l, 5l, 12l, 1 3/4l
Blog by Stephen Wallis, Visitor Services