‘Mill Reef changed my life, changed my brother’s life, changed my father’s life’

 
 

TV presenter Clare Balding reflects on the world’s greatest flat race and the impact it had on her as she grew up.

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Read the transcript

It's funny coming back as I don’t live here anymore. But all my memories are of being a child and mucking about on ponies and getting into trouble and then pretending I was a jockey.
 
So this is the colour room. These are the Queen’s colours and the ultimate dream for her as a breeder would be to breed a Derby winner.
 
Honestly, when you ride a racehorse it’s like you’ve been driving a tractor all your life and you get into a sports car. 
 

On Mill Reef

The Derby that meant the most to me, obviously, was Mill Reef’s, although I don’t remember it, as I had just been born that year.
 
My father does not remember the fact that his first child was born in 1971 because all that year means to him is Mill Reef.
 
It’s no exaggeration to say that this horse changed my life, changed my brother’s life, changed my father’s life. 
 
“You always aim to have a Derby horse. I think it’s iconic, it’s just amazing.” [Ian Balding, Clare’s father]
 

The Derby feeling

When the stalls open, there’s just a fraction of a second when nothing happens, and then, boom. These amazing thoroughbreds jump out and they’re thundering by you.
 
It's such a wonderful feeling. And you’re coming out there and the breeze is blowing in your face.
 
I think when it comes to the Derby there are certain jockeys that make a difference. Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore, they ride the course, they ride the race.
 

Racing and broadcasting

When I was into race mode, it was almost like everything actually happened in slow motion, so I had time.
 
And broadcasting is very similar. As soon as the red light goes on and you know you're on air, everything in my head slows down.
 
This is a race that has been going for centuries and every year an exceptional horse will win it, because you have to be exceptional to win it.

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