Reference Point was a son of Mill Reef, who carried the distinctive racing colours of the late Louis Freedman and was trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, although back in his heyday, long before his knighthood, when he was just plain “Henry”. Reference Point first rose to prominence when winning the William Hill Furity, now the Racing Post Trophy, at Doncaster in 1986. He started 4/1 third favourite behind stable companion Suhailie, ridden by Steve Cauthen, on that occasion but, having set a strong pace under Pat Eddery, drew away in the closing stages to win by 5 lengths.
Recurring sinus problems, which required an operation, precluded running in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, but Reference Point reappeared in the Dante Stakes, over 1 mile 2½ furlongs at York, in May, 1987. Ridden this time by Steve Cauthen, Reference Point once again set strong fractions and stayed on strongly to win by a length. Following the race, commentator Graham Goode said, prophetically, “This, for me, was a Derby winning performance.”
At Epsom the following month, Reference Point was backed into 6/4 favourite for the Derby and once again, made just about every yard of the running, eventually holding Most Welcome by 1½ lengths, with Belloto a further short head away in third. Cauthen said afterwards, “He’s a big strong horse…he’s going to be better as the year goes on and on more galloping tracks he’s going to be more of a force to be reckoned with.”
Reference Point dropped back to a mile and a quarter for the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, for which he started even money favourite but, having adopted his customary front running role, failed by threequarters of a length to withstand the challenge of Mtoto. He resumed winning ways in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, thrashing Celestial Storm and Triptych by 3 lengths and a neck, much to the delight of your correspondent, who was at Ascot that day, and completed his domestic season by winning the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and the St. Leger at Doncaster.
Reference Point made his final appearance in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, finding uncharacteristically little under pressure and finishing down the field; he was subsequently found to be suffering from an abscess on his foot.