Action replay: Brigadier takes complete command

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The Independent Online
On Wednesday 1 May, 1971, a small but select field of six contested arguably the greatest 2,000 Guineas ever run. The strongly fancied My Swallow came with an unbeaten record; Mill Reef, the favourite, had lost only once, in a photo finish with My Swallow; Brigadier Gerard was also unbeaten and Lester Piggott was aboard Nijinsky's brother, Minsky. This is how the Sunday Express reported the race.

JOE MERCER on Brigadier Gerard dropped like a thunderbolt on the leading horses to turn the 2,000 Guineas - boosted as the classic mile of the century - into a May-Day massacre of the favourites.

Mill Reef and My Swallow were swept helplessly aside as the Brigadier stormed irresistibly to a three-length win. That these superb rivals could be so ruthlessly exterminated seemed beyond belief, but it happened. And beyond all doubt, victory went to the best horse... a long way the best.

No wonder ex-champion amateur rider, journalist John Hislop turned down a pounds 250,000 offer for his wife Jean's colt during the winter. "He was never for sale - we would not have parted with him for pounds 5 million," he said after the horse they bred themselves had so spectacularly franked their judgment. "I have not ridden him myself at exercise since last season," Hislop chuckled. "I can't think of better grounds for divorce than if I had fallen off and let him loose."

Race-rider Mercer, who kept Brigadier Gerard unbeaten through all his four races in 1970, would have had to fall off to lose yesterday. The colt was hardly puffing afterwards - a tremendous tribute to trainer Dick Hern's preparation.

It was the massive, also undefeated, My Swallow who proudly led the way from the starting stalls, joined by the favourite, Mill Reef, with three furlongs to go. But just as they accelerated for the finishing line, Mercer asked Brigadier Gerard for an effort which finished the race in a furlong.

"I had to wake him up because they suddenly went an extra length away. But there was never any doubt when he got going. His neck was in front a quarter of a mile out and that was that," Joe summed up.

The beaten riders, bitterly disappointed but making no excuses, agreed. "We didn't cut each other's throats in front, the winner just beat us," said Frankie Durr (My Swallow). "Joe's horse had the speed - he was just too good," admitted Geoff Lewis (Mill Reef).

Nijinsky's brother, Minsky, had behaved in the parade ring as if his thoughts were on a stud career before winning a big enough race to justify it. He quit after tracking My Swallow for six furlongs.

Both Minsky and Brigadier Gerard will miss the Derby for which My Swallow is not entered. The "2,000" hero sticks to mile races and Minsky is to aim at sprints.

Seeing how powerfully Brigadier Gerard stayed on up Newmarket's final hill, some people might be surprised that he will not bid for the longer Epsom classic. But his connections were right not to sell him; right not to give him a pre-Guineas race - why should they be wrong now?

HOOFNOTE: Brigadier Gerard went from strength to strength and won 15 top class races in a row before tasting defeat for the one and only time in 18 outings. Mill Reef became a living legend of the turf, his most notable victories coming in the Derby, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.

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