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Special Mill Reef success for Balding after Classic contender Array wins race named after father’s legendary star

Kingsclere’s Andrew Balding admitted Saturday’s Mill Reef Stakes win had a special significance after Array landed him the race named in honour of his father’s legendary 1971 Derby winner.

It was the first time the younger Balding had won the Group 2 Newbury feature, named after one of his father Ian’s most famous horses, despite a number of second and third placed finishes.

Array, who set off as 7/4 favourite, finished half-a-length clear of Eve Johnson Houghton’s Mister Sketch, and Balding was delighted to land the race dedicated to the great Mill Reef after two decades of trying.

Kingsclere trainer Andrew Balding admitted Saturday’s Mill Reef Stakes success was ‘extra special’
Kingsclere trainer Andrew Balding admitted Saturday’s Mill Reef Stakes success was ‘extra special’

“It’s an important race in the calendar full stop, but given the association with Mill Reef and my father, it makes it extra poignant,” he said.

“We’ve been second twice and third twice, so it’s always a race we’ve gone close in.

“We always try and have a look for a horse we think might be capable of challenging, and to win it was extra special.”

Array, who has excellent pedigree, has made a fine start to his career, finishing second on his debut at Newbury in July, winning at Newmarket last month and finishing in the top three at Kempton and Goodwood.

And Balding is confident the progressive two-year-old, who has also impressed jockey Oisin Murphy, has a bright future ahead.

He said: “He’s a beautifully bred horse, he’s out of a sister to Frankel and No Nay Never, who is a stallion we’ve had a lot of success with and is the sire to Alcohol Free.

“He’s improved with racing. He was a little unlucky at Kempton last time, and possibly at Goodwood as well, so with a few bits of luck he could almost be unbeaten.

“He’s an exciting horse for the future.”

Although he’s yet to race over more than six furlongs, Balding feels Array could potentially stay a mile, which would make him a Classic contender and could set up a title at the 2,000 Guineas next spring.

“I think we have to have a Classic in mind,” he said.

“He’s not guaranteed to stay a mile. He certainly looks like he’d cope with seven furlongs, but we’ll have to see if he can find that extra.

“He relaxes very well, which gives him a chance, and there are bits within his pedigree that suggest it is within reach.”

It was also Array’s first time racing on very soft ground, with the going at Newbury heavy, soft in places – and Balding was especially impressed with how the Juddmonte-owned colt adapted to the testing surface.

He said: “I think he goes on any ground, which is really helpful looking ahead to the three-year-old season.

“It’s a massive plus point for us.”

While Array has been confirmed for this weekend’s Middle Park Stakes, Balding admits he’d have to be “like a lion” all week to line-up at Newmarket, but hinted he could still be supplemented for the Darley Dewhurst Stakes – a race Balding won last year with Chaldean – next month.

“There’s every chance,” he said.

“With this sort of calibre of horse, the cost of the supplementary becomes almost irrelevant given how much value could be added.

“If we think he could be competitive, then we’ll be taking our chance.”

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