Racing: Lewis decides to close the Barn door

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GEOFF LEWIS, the rider forever associated with the brilliant Mill Reef, announced yesterday that he will retire from training on 12 September.

Lewis, 63, took out a trainer's licence in 1980 after a glorious career as a jockey, including success in 1971 on Mill Reef in the Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Mill Reef was an exceptional colt, but Lewis's skills in the saddle were never fully recognised. The Welshman's understandable failure to equal, as a trainer, the same heights as he had reached in the saddle, was confirmation for the doubters.

There was no comment yesterday from his stables, Thirty Acre Barn, a short gallop from Epsom racecourse, as to who has bought the property. In a statement, Lewis, who sent out over 500 winners from the yard, said: "It will be a sad day for my family, my staff and of course for me but the time has come that it is no longer viable for me to carry on training from Thirty Acre Barn.''

One of Lewis's biggest training successes was Lake Coniston the 1995 champion sprinter of Europe, although others such as 1983 Grand Prix de Paris winner Yawa, Italian St Leger winner Rough Pearl and 1992 Derby third Silver Wisp kept Lewis in the headlines.

One of Lewis's weighing room colleagues, Willie Carson, admitted he was surprised. "I'm rather shocked,"Carson said. ''Even as a jockey he always took a great deal of interest on the training side. He was the one ex- jockey who still enjoyed getting up early in a morning to watch his horses work."

Mill Reef's trainer, Ian Balding, said: "Right at the beginning Geoff and I enjoyed success with good horses like Silly Season and Berkeley Springs. Later, of course, Mill Reef was to come along and that was the most unforgettable year. Geoff also won the Oaks and Coronation Cup and I'm not sure that any other jockeys have done that.''