As the hours and minutes to the 2016 Group 1 Investec Derby count down, my mind runs through some of the most brilliant past winners of the race. Mill Reef (by Never Bend) is high among them, of course, the superstar whose victory in 1971 was part of a glittering CV that earned him a Timeform figure of 141.
He was an outstanding stallion, his dual Derby-winning son Shirley Heights has helped to keep his name alive in the male line of pedigrees, and he was an influential broodmare sire. It is a particular one of Mill Reef's daughters that my memory pulls out next, a filly who was not just one her sire's best-ever runners, but whose Timeform figure of 130 places her highly among the best fillies of the turf.
She is a daughter of 1979's Group 1 1000 Guineas and Group 2 Coronation Stakes heroine One In A Million (by Rarity), a Henry Cecil-trained star whom Timeform rated 125 and who became a foundation mare for Meon Valley Stud.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Milligram made a winning debut over seven furlongs at Newbury in September of her juvenile year, just months after the premature death of her sire. The following month she was runner-up to the brilliant Miesque in what turned out to be a remarkably strong edition of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and she went into winter quarters with a 122 rating from Timeform.
She chased home Miesque again in the Group 1 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on her seasonal reappearance at three, was short-headed by Forest Flower in the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, but then ran away with the Group 2 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. She failed to stay when out of the frame behind Mtoto in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes next time, bounced back to take the Group 2 Waterford Crystal Mile (now Celebration Mile) at Goodwood, and then achieved something that few ever managed; she beat Miesque (Timeform 131 at three, 133 at four). Her margin of victory over the subsequent dual Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile heroine was two and a half lengths, and the excellent Sonic Lady was another five lengths back in third; the race was the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
In one of those twists of fate that we often see in this business, Milligram failed to produce a single stakes winner at stud, while her Group 2-placed half-sister Someone Special (by Habitat) came up with four: Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes heroine One So Wonderful (by Nashwan), Group 2 Dante Stakes winner Alnasr Alwasheek (by Sadler's Wells), classic-placed pattern winner Relatively Special (by Alzao) and listed scorer Raucous Lad (by Warning).
In terms of how their grandsons and grand-daughters, and other more distant descendants have fared, their records are quite evenly matched.
For Someone Special those include the US Grade 2 winner Sun Boat (by Machiavellian), European pattern scorers Best Dating (by King's Best) and Nargys (by Lawman), and several listed race winners. Milligram, on the other hand, is the grandam of the Group 2 Sun Chariot Stakes winner Kissogram (by Caerleon), of Group 1-placed stakes winner Dash To The Top (by Montjeu) and of Listed Warwickshire Oaks scorer Dash To The Front (by Diktat), and the latter is, in turn, responsible for the recent Group 2 Prix Corrida heroine Speedy Boarding.
One of a string of blacktype winners in 2016 for dual classic star and outstanding Kildangan Stud stallion Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway), Speedy Boarding is trained by James Fanshawe, she is, like her ancestors, bred by Meon Valley Stud and so she carries the famous black and white colours of Helena Springfield Ltd.
She was placed on her only start at two, beat Journey in a Goodwood maiden first time out at three and then won a listed contest at Newbury before finishing fifth behind Covert Love in the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh. She then failed by half a length to take a 10-furlong listed contest at Yarmouth, and was unplaced behind Simple Verse in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes at Ascot.
Her first start of 2016 was in last month's Group 2 Middleton Stakes over the extended 10 furlongs at York; she finished fourth behind Beautiful Romance. Her Saint-Cloud victory, also over an extended 10 furlongs, came last Sunday and she may now go for the Group 1 Sea The Stars Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on 26th June.
This talented great-granddaughter of Milligram is not in the same league as her famous ancestor, and further improvement is required if she is to be up to winning at the highest level, but beating Siljan's Saga and Candarliya in France suggests that she is on the upgrade. Whatever she does or does not achieve for the rest of her racing career, she promises to become a very valuable addition to the Meon Valley Stud broodmare band whenever that time comes.