Albert and Septimus Miller
Albert and Septimus Miller’s Redleap Stables were built in 1892, the year of Redleap’s famous victories in the VRC Grand National Steeplechase and Grand National Hurdle at Flemington and the VATC Australian Steeplechase at Caulfield. The stables and adjacent training track, which cost nearly £7,000, were said to be the best in Victoria. The stables were paid for by Redleap’s stake winnings which exceeded £5,000. The Millers are also said to have wagered over £5,000 with bookmakers on Redleap at 10 to 1.
Albert and Septimus Miller were involved in horse racing for most of their lives. Albert, who lived at Toorak, served on the Victorian Amateur Turf Club committee for many years and Septimus, who lived at Caulfield, was a Victoria Racing Club committeeman for 41 years and served as Chairman from 1895-1906.
During the 1880s and 1890s, Albert and Septimus bred and raced horses together in a partnership, which also included their brother Edward. Albert devoted most of his time to breeding and training and Septimus to racing, all the Miller brothers’ horses running in Septimus’ name and his crimson and white colours. Prior to their racehorses being transferred to Mill Park, the Millers’ horses were trained at Craigieburn and Alphington. The family’s stud farm, Broadlands, was located at Bacchus Marsh.
Ribbledon, writing in the Australasian in 1893, described the Redleap Stables as being:
”situated on the summit of a grassy slope, overlooking the training-track, with Bundoora-park beyond, and the Dandenong Ranges rising in the dim distance. The stables are substantially built of brick, even to the partitions of the boxes, which are lofty and well-ventilated. Altogether there are 18 boxes and three stalls, and under the same roof are the foreman’s quarters, saddle-room, feed-room, etc. Close by is the trainer Bellamy’s cottage, handy to which are the boys’ quarters, with diningroom, bathroom, etc., attached, and water from the Yan Yean is laid on throughout…The blacksmith’s forge, grinding mills, butcher’s shop, and other useful appurtenances are in close proximity.The stables, which have a long rectangular form with stalls on each side of a central thoroughfare, had large double doors at each end. Light and ventilation were provided via a clerestory beneath the central gable. Each bay of the stalls is defined on the exterior with buttresses and included separate openings for manure removal. The building – 144 feet long, 48 feet wide and 35 feet high – still stands although now modified for retail use. Another wooden stable block was located nearby to house young horses.”
The thoroughly professional mile-and-a-quarter training track was designed by Albert Miller himself. Today’s Mill Park Drive marks its former course. There were actually three tracks – an inside dirt track, a centre sand track for wet weather and an outside schooling track with padded rails at the top of the hurdles and fences. There was also a separate straight course of four furlongs for training two-year-olds and a starting gate on a sidetrack to school young horses. In the centre of the circuit was a wooden building containing six rubbing down boxes.
The Millers were strong believers in time trials. Their training track had a gradual rise toward the finish and the Millers considered any horse which finished strongly up this incline would run well in public races. If the Millers had two horses engaged in a hurdle race the following Saturday they would be put together for a two-mile gallop on the Wednesday. For flat racing trials, the horses had to carry the exact weight and run over the exact distance of the event in which they were engaged. Successful trials meant the Millers would wager strongly on their horses.
Some of the horses trained at Mill Park were bred by the Millers themselves at their Bacchus Marsh stud, but most were purchased at yearling sales. The Millers also bought successful racehorses. Horses engaged to race were walked to the Reservoir railway station, taken by train to the racecourse, then returned the same way.
Humphrey Bellamy was private trainer for the Millers for many years until their partnership was dissolved in 1898 and the horses sold. During the previous ten years, the Millers had turned out the winners of over 400 races to the value of £48,602, but the stables and training complex cost £6,000 a year to maintain. Albert continued on his own account in his all-white colours and Septimus soon returned to racing, before withdrawing again in 1905 for a decade following the tragic death at Caulfield of his favourite jockey, Mick Mooney. Even when racing individually, Albert and Septimus’ horses were all trained at Mill Park by the same trainers, who after Bellamy included J. H. Slade, N. Campbell and E. Nelson. Besides Mooney, jockeys who rode for the Millers over the years included J. J. Allan, Martin Burke, Tom Corrigan, W. S. (Willie) Cox Jun., C. Dickenson, Godfrey and Harry Watson and A. Williamson.
As well as Redleap, very successful jumpers raced by the Millers, either in partnership or individually, included Eaglet (winner of 1888 VATC and 1889 VRC Grand National Steeplechases); Hayseed (1897 VRC Grand National Steeplechase); Realgar (1898 VATC Grand National Hurdle); Rawdon 1902 VRC Grand National Hurdle); Colonel Shilinski (1902 VATC Grand National Hurdle and Grand National Steeplechase); and Cardinal (1908 VRC Grand National Steeplechase). Other good jumpers were Mernder, Sir Wilfred, Studley and Whernside. Their most successful flat racers were William Tell (1886 VRC Newmarket Handicap and 1886 VATC Oakleigh Plate and 1887 VRC Standish Handicap) and Preston (1894 Moonee Valley Cup and 1895 VRC St Leger).
Following the deaths of Albert Miller in 1915 and Septimus Miller in 1925, the Redleap Stables fell into disuse. Today, they form part of The Stables Shopping Centre at Mill Park, (which opened at the end of 1979) where there is a Redleap Reserve and many of Whittlesea street names have been given racing names. Redleap Avenue, Eaglet, Rawdon, Studley and Whernside Courts and Cardinal Close are all named after Miller horses.
In Commemoration of the 103rd anniversary of the Redleap’s death, a famous jumps horse that trained in Mill Park, the City of Whittlesea exhibited a small display of his remains from Museum Victoria’s collection at the Council Offices in late 2011.
by Robert Wuchatsch (Local Historian)