Mill Reef was born in the United States, but rather than destined for the Kentucky Derby, the stallion was shipped off to the United Kingdom. Trained by Paul Mellon, Mill Reef competed in 14 races and registered a record of 12-2-0.
The Stallion only raced from 1970 to 1972, and in that time, he accumulated wins at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Epsom Derby, Gimcrack Stakes and more.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Mill Reef’s wins were the distance in which he finished in front of the competition. At Gimcrack he won by 10 lengths. The King George VI saw him stroll to victory by six lengths; and the Epsom Derby was won by two lengths.
In 1972, Mill Reef’s career was cut short due to breaking his foreleg. Although a plate was inserted to fix the fracture, Mill Reef’s racing days were finished and the horse was retired. Over the ensuing years, Mill Reef fathered a number of offspring that went on to successful careers. In 1986, Mill Reef died at age 18.
Mill Reef’s legacy lives on in the stakes race named after the famous horse. Founded in 1972, the Group 2 flat race is run at Newbury.
During his successful career, Mill Reef was ridden to victory by Geoff Lewis. The extraordinary jockey reached fame and fortune thanks to the horse and in 1999 retired from the sport. Now 82, Lewis won a laundry list of cups and trophies during his illustrious career and a number of those came with Mill Reef.
Kauto Star was a French-bred race horse that claimed fame as a National Hunt champion. The gelding won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and amassed more than £3.78 million in winnings. Kauto Star won 23 races in 41 starts during his career. The horse was known as the greatest chaser of the 21st century, and based on his record of 23-7-4, it is difficult to argue with the claim.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup wasn’t the only race Kauto Star excelled in. He won the King George VI Chase five times with the first four victories coming in consecutive years between 2006 and 2009. Trained by Paul Nicholls, Timeform has rated Kauto Star as the third-best steeplechase horse since the group began keeping records. Only famed horses Arkle and Flyingbolt achieved a better Timeform rating than Kauto Star’s 191.
While Kauto Star achieved immense success on the race track, the horse was mired in controversy off it. In 2012, owner Clive Smith retired the gelding and Kauto Star began competing in dressage events. The decision was against the wishes of trainer Nicholls, who wanted the horse to remain at Ditcheat farm. The owner and trainer fell out due to the circumstances surrounding the horse.
Less than three years later, Kauto Star was put down by vets following a fall. The 15-year-old horse had broken his neck and pelvis; and due to the development of pneumonia, Kauto Star was finally put down. It is believed the horse’s initial injuries occurred when he tried to jump out of the paddock.
Kauto Star’s legacy lives on as he was one of the most successful National Hunt race horses of the last 20 years. Despite an early death, Kauto Star still made a major impact on the horse racing world.
Trained by legendary Irish horse trainer Willie Mullins, Hurricane Fly experienced quite the racing career.
Originally trained to race on flat surfaces, Hurricane Fly ran 10 races on flat courses. He registered a record of 2-2-1 during that time. It was a period in which Hurricane Fly raced solely in France. However, following his 10 races on flat tracks, Hurricane Fly’s future changed drastically.
In 2007, Hurricane Fly was sold and relocated to Ireland. It was there that the horse began to compete in National Hunt competitions. Paired with jockey Ruby Walsh, Hurricane Fly began to reel off win after win. Walsh rode Hurricane Fly for 18 of 26 career wins in National Hunt events. The horse won four times at the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, five times at the Irish Champion Hurdle and twice at the Champion Hurdle. His exploits were well-known by racing aficionados despite never running his best race at Cheltenham.
Hurricane Fly managed to carve out a career that saw him change disciplines and win. Something many of the top horses today are unable to do.
In 2015, after a long career on the race track, Hurricane Fly was retired to the stables. Walsh described Hurricane Fly as a legend, and Mullins stated he was a “horse of a generation”.
Hurricane Fly’s owners could have continued racing the horse well into his advancing years. However, the owners stated he was in good shape and preferred for him to live out his years without any major health issues.
By the time Hurricane Fly was retired, the horse had accumulated nearly €2 million in winnings. A battler to the very end of each race, Hurricane Fly was a betting favourite, especially for those living in Ulster where the horse’s owners resided. According to the Belfast Telegraph, Hurricane Fly was moved to Mullins’ farm upon retirement. He may be out of the limelight of racing, but at least the iconic race horse is still around the sport and his trainer.