Mill Reef's 50th Birthday

14th February 2018

This year marks what would have been iconic flat horse, Mill Reef's 50th birthday. The Derby and Arc winner was born 50 years ago on 23rd February 1968.

Mill Reef with Professor Roberts at The National Stud. c.1973, digital colour print from a transparency. The Roberts Collection, National Horseracing Museum Mill Reef with Professor Roberts at The National Stud. c.1973, The Roberts Collection, National Horseracing Museum

We are pleased to mark the anniversary of Mill Reef's 50th birthday with a display that will showcase key items from the Museum collection to celebrate this phenomenal horse. It includes the 1971 Epsom Derby Day Racecard at which Mill Reef won the Derby as a three-year-old, just one of the hundreds of racecards held in the collection. His headcollar, which he wore whilst standing at The National Stud and has kindly been lent by them, will also be on display.

derby-day-rc Derby Day, Epsom, Racecard, 2nd June 1971. National Horseracing Museum

The National Horseracing Museum holds an extensive collection relating to famous flat and jump racehorses, not just racecards but items of tack, mementos, archival records, photographs and artwork. The Museum also holds a signed and annotated copy of the racecard from Geoff Lewis’s final ride at Haydock, Lewis was Mill Reef’s jockey for all of his 14 races. Mill Reef won 12 of his 14 races making history when he became the first English horse in 20 years to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1971. Sadly, in August 1972, during training in to defend his Arc title, he fractured three bones in his left forelimb. This injury ended his racing career.

The Museum also holds the significant Roberts Collection, a collection of veterinary equipment and archive material relating to, and collected by, Professor James Roberts. Following Mill Reef’s injury Professor

Roberts performed pioneering orthopaedic surgery to repair his fractured leg,

mr-op-xray-4___004 Mill Reef’s Post-Operative X-ray. 1972, digital colour print from a transparency taken of original x-ray

saving his life and allowing him to stand at stud. Professor Roberts was at the time based in Newmarket and was Veterinary Consultant to the Royal Household. A large display of The Roberts Collection can be seen in The Horse Comes First gallery in the King's Yard.

The x-ray shows the plate and three screws that locked the fractured segment of cannon bone in place.

Mill Reef went on to stand at the National Stud in 1973 and sired many successful offspring including Shirley Heights, also a Derby winner, and through him is grandsire to another Derby winner Slip Anchor. Mill Reef died in 1986 and is buried at The National Stud where a bronze statue, by sculptor John Skeaping, stands in his memory.

Mill Reef's 50th Birthday display is up and running at Palace House, Newmarket. The display, curated by Briony Jackson, Assistant Curator, Science and Learning will be available to view in The Maktoum Gallery of the Thoroughbred from 12th February 2018 until 7th March 2018, it is included in the price of admission. It will be accompanied by specialist blogs throughout 2018.

Written by: Briony Jackson Assistant Curator, Science and Learning.