We were delighted to welcome Ian Balding, the former Royal trainer who guided Mill Reef to Derby and Arc success in 1971 to the National Heritage Centre.
The master of Kingsclere was shown around the new National Horseracing Museum in the Trainer's House by our Visitor Services team. He spent a considerable time in the Sporting Glory Gallery where he had the opportunity to listen to his daughter Clare interviewing racing legends, Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori, Hayley Turner and AP McCoy in an exclusive interview to NHRM. He also caught family Balding on film on their memorable day in 2003 when Andrew’s filly Casual Look won the Oaks. When a proud father, his son and daughter were left literally speechless in the winner’s enclosure!
Transferring to the King‘s Yard he met up with Frank Conlon in the Pivotal Simulator Gallery. Frank remembered riding out 1985 Derby winner, Slip Anchor, whose grandsire was Mill Reef - at the time Frank was the travelling head lad for Henry Cecil. (Slip Anchor’s sire was the 1978 Derby winner Shirley Heights to complete a trio of successes by father, son and grandson in Britain’s Premier Classic, the first time this had happened since the second world war).
A few stable doors away in the King’s Yard, Ian went into the Horse Comes First gallery which features Professor Jim Roberts’s operation on Mill Reef including an X-ray of the horse’s repaired leg.
He recalled stories of Mill Reef with Visitor Service Team member Stephen
Wallis. He particularly mentioned the work of Professor Jim Roberts, who saved the horse with pioneering surgery after Mill Reef fractured a foreleg on the gallops at Kingsclere in late August 1972.
He recalled the way that, after the plaster was removed from the horse’s leg, Roberts devised a plan for the horse to put pressure on his injured leg.
“Mill Reef had become the best three legged walker you had ever seen. He would not put his bad leg to the ground” said Balding.
After a week of this with his muscles wasting on his near fore shoulder urgent action was needed. The trainer recollected how Roberts devised a system using a rope and the stick from a broom, which he attached from his near fore pastern to his off hind pastern and went under his body. Mill Reef then had no option but to put his foot down or he would fall down. After about three weeks the horse was walking perfectly.
“It was astonishing, a brilliant surgeon and a wonderful horse. He had a lovely temperament; anyone could come up to him and pat him”.
Before departing for home and Kingsclere Park House stables Ian chatted to Joe Grimwade our RoR Yard and Public Engagement Manager.
“It was wonderful to see Ian again. I fondly remember many happy trips to his stables when I was The Queen's Stud Manager seeing Her horses” said Joe.
“The Balding family are amazing supporters of RoR – especially Ian‘s wife, Lady Emma, who is the sole Trustee, who has been giving her time to RoR since its launch in 2000 - and probably before. Daughter Clare is the charity’s Patron; her considerable knowledge and fame are great assets to RoR” said Joe.
Ian was very impressed with the new centre and promised to return again later in the year. We hope he will be able to persuade Clare, Andrew and the rest of the family to join him on his next visit.
"I was massively impressed with the National Heritage Centre and very much enjoyed my visit especially seeing the bits about Mill Reef and the film that daughter Clare did."
NB > The Roberts Collection of veterinary equipment, is on loan to the National Horseracing Museum, and displayed with kind permission of Professor Roberts’ family.