GEOFF LEWIS REMEMBERS MILL REEF
The draw for the Investec Derby took the form of a live ceremony for the first time today at Epsom Downs, broadcast live by Racing UK and live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter by Epsom Downs Racecourse and Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival.
The draw was conducted by two Investec Derby-winning jockeys – Geoff Lewis, who rode Mill Reef to victory in 1971, and John Reid, successful aboard Dr Devious in 1992.
Lewis, 82, has spent most of his lifetime in Epsom. He became an apprentice to trainer Ron Smyth in the town at the age of 15, having had his first glimpse of the Derby in 1950.
“Two friends and I got a bus from Shepherd’s Bush to Malden, and ended up walking miles to Epsom,” he recalled. “I couldn’t see a thing and this big fella ended up putting me on his shoulders. Rae Johnstone on the French horse (Galcador) beat Harry Carr a neck on the favourite (Prince Simon).”
Lewis rode his first winner at Epsom Downs, for Smyth, in April 1953 on a horse called Eastern Imp.
He partnered five Classic winners in total, including the Investec Oaks with Altesse Royale in 1971 and 1973, but the victory for which he will always be remembered was that of the Ian Balding-trained Mill Reef in the 21-runner 1971 Derby.
Lewis said: “A few of the best people rang me before the race and said, ‘Are you sure he will stay?’ I said, ‘Look, if he can work on the gallops we’ve got [at Kingsclere], there’s no doubt he will here [at Epsom Downs].
“In the early stages I dropped in behind, and found myself behind the one horse I didn’t want to have in front of me. But he took me to the five-furlong pole. Once we were over the road, off we went. He had so much speed.”
Lewis pulled off the Epsom Downs G1 treble in 1971, winning the Investec Derby on Mill Reef, the Investec Oaks aboard Altesse Royale and the Coronation Cup with Lupe. He trained successfully in Epsom, at Thirty Acre Barn, for 20 years (1979-1999).
‘I WAS VERY CONFIDENT’: JOHN REID ON 1992 INVESTEC DERBY WINNER DR DEVIOUS
This morning’s Investec Derby draw – which took the form of a live ceremony for the first time today at Epsom Downs – was conducted by a pair of Investec Derby-winning jockeys: John Reid, successful aboard Dr Devious in 1992, and Geoff Lewis, who rode Mill Reef to victory in 1971.
John Reid, 63, has vivid memories of his win in the world’s most famous Flat race.
“It was an amazing story – Dr Devious was sold to race in the Kentucky Derby and to stay there [in the USA],” remembered Reid. “Unfortunately he ran pretty keen out there, the jockey couldn’t get him settled and he ran himself into the ground. The owners [Sidney and Jenny Craig] complained to [Dr Devious’s trainer] Peter Chapple-Hyam about the horse they’d been sold and he said, ‘Send him back’, which they did.
“I didn’t even know he was back when Peter rang me up to ask me to ride him – I thought he had gone for good. I hadn’t even ridden for Peter at that stage – it was my very first ride for him. After riding work on ‘the Doctor’ I was very confident. The horse looked fantastic – you couldn’t believe he had ever run in the Kentucky Derby – and after working at Manton [where Chapple-Hyam trained] on the very steep gallops – he ran out over the top of them – I was confident.
“Early in the race he was again a little bit keen for the first furlong and a half and I was just beginning to get worried that he wasn’t going to let me switch him off, then he did switch off and from then on it was easy peasy. I was taking it for granted that he would stay.”
Chapple-Hyam had trained Rodrigo De Triano to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket a month earlier with Lester Piggott in the saddle. The horse could only finish ninth behind his stable-companion.
Reid said: “After a work morning when I rode ‘the Doctor’ and Lester rode Rodrigo, he and Peter knew Rodrigo wouldn’t stay, but the pressure was on for him to run. Lester did ask Peter if he could get off Rodrigo and ride the Doctor, but Peter said, ‘No, you stay where you are!'”
Dr Devious beat St Jovite by two lengths, although the Jim Bolger-trained colt reversed the form in the Irish Derby.