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The Great Mill Reef

On of history's greatest racehorses

2018 marks 50 years since the mighty Mill Reef was foaled.

One of history’s greatest racehorses, the Never Bend sired bay won 12 of 14 outings with his wins including the Epsom Derby, Prix de’L Arc De Triomphe, Eclipse Stakes, Coronation Cup, Prix Ganay, Dewhurst Stakes and King George Vi And Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Stakes.

Sarah Whitelaw writes that he was rated the fourth top European racehorse in a survey conducted by the Racing Post.

Mill Reef overcame a potential fatal breakdown to become Champion Sire twice in Britain with his numerous high class offspring including Epsom Derby winners Shirley Heights (1978) and Reference Point (1987).

Also Champion Broodmare Sire in Britain in 1995, Mill Reef’s progeny included eight official champions and The Jockey Club credit him with 63 stakes winners from 394 foals (or an exceptional 16% percent of Mill Reef foals were black type winners).

His classic winners included Shirley Heights and Reference Point, Doyoun (2000 Guineas), Acamas (French Derby), Wassl (Irish 2000 Guineas), Paris Royal (Italian Oaks) and Fairy Footsteps (1000 Guineas), while Mill Reef son Lashkari making history by winning the very first running of the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Remarkably, Mill Reef enjoyed a major Derby double in 1978 with Shirley Heights and Acamas emerging from his 1975 crop and it is hard to wonder what else he may have achieved given a longer stud career.

But what of his influence today?

The last descendant of Mill Reef to garner a major sires title (on the flat anyway) was French Derby winner Reliable Man, who was Germany’s Leading First Crop Sire of 2017.

Shirley Heights was by far his best sire son, leaving behind Derby winners Slip Anchor and Darshaan, with the latter becoming a Champion Sire in France and outstanding broodmare sire.



While Slip Anchor (whose progeny included the great racemare User Friendly) failed to make an impact as a sire of sires, Darshaan sire sons included champions Mark Of Esteem and Dalakhani –both of whom sired European classic winners. However, Mark Of Esteem (who like Dalakhani is now retired from stud duties) has not left behind a significant sire son. Dalakhani, whose dual Breeders’ Cup Turf winning son Conduit has failed to make a mark at stud in Japan and is now a National Hunt sire in Ireland, does have Reliable Man to his credit, with the latter both Champion First Crop Sire in Germany and fifth leading First Crop sire in New Zealand back in 2016-2017. However, Reliable Man is yet to sire a Gr1 winner and he needs to do more to feature as a viable contender to carry on the Mill Reef male line.

Shirley Heights’ short-lived son Elegant Air threw multiple champion German sire Dashing Blade – himself sire of, among others, current German sire success Lord Of England.

However, it is Shirley Heights son Deploy who appears likely to feature in pedigrees for years to come. His Italian Oaks winning daughter Zomaradah is the dam of triple Gr1 winner and exceptional sire Dubawi (who has been represented by five Gr1 winners this year and who is sire of Gr1 producing sires Poet’s Voice and Makfi).

Lashkari, while a poor sire, is broodmare sire of Derby/Arc winner Sinndar, whose triple Arc runner up son Youmzain was responsible for 2016 Gr1 Beverly D Stakes winner Sea Calisi . Sinndar is also enjoying ongoing success as a broodmare sire and is already damsire of the classic winners Trading Leather, Encke and Flotilla. Sinndar is also broodmare sire of inaugural Sun Met winner Whisky Baron.

Doyoun left behind the Gr1 winners Daylami and Kalanisi (both Breeders’ Cup Turf winners), Margarula and Manntari.

While Kalanisi was a failure as a sire on the flat, his paternal half-brother Daylami (while no star himself as a stallion) has made more of a mark as a broodmare sire. The former Horse Of The Year, whose brief stud career in South Africa yielded the smart fillies Kalami (2nd Gr1 SA Fillies Classic) and Super Elegant (Diana Stakes), is represented at stud by sons Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow and champion Voila Ici.

It is as a damsire that Daylami – a half-brother to the considerably better sire Dalakhani – promises to feature in pedigrees in coming years however. He is damsire of Golden Slipper winning champion Pierro –Australia’s Leading Second Crop Sire of 2017-2018. The Coolmore based Pierro appears one of Australia’s rising sire stars, with his first crop having produced five Group winners headed by the Australian classic winners Levendi and Pinot.

Other notable performers out of Daylami mares include Italian champion Hero Look, Gr1 Prix Morny winning sire Arcano, multiple graded stakes winner Suffused, 2018 Gr1 Prix Maurice De Gheest runner up James Garfield, and 2018 Gr3 Derrinstown Derby Trial winner and Investec Derby runner Hazapour.

Rather telling perhaps, Weatherbys Stallion Book online officially lists just six stallions for 2018 descended in male line from this truly exceptional stallion, with the sextet including the National Hunt stallions Kalanisi, Robin Des Champs and the latter’s son Cokoriko. However, while the Mill Reef male line appears in jeopardy, inbreeding to the great champion has produced a good number of high class gallopers including Gr1 winners Alinghi, Ave, 2018 dual Gr1 winner Benbatl and Elm Park.

Mill Reef, broodmare sire of former leading New Zealand sire Pentire, is also found in the pedigrees of several important sires notably Oasis Dream, Dubawi as well as emerging sire star Kingman.

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