Septimus Miller

Septimus Miller (1854-1925)

Horse Owner, Racing Identity & Pastoralist

Location: CofE*E*13

Brighton Cemetery’s most grandeur and impressive monument that of the Gothic style vault, Septimus Miller was born in 1854 at George Street, Fitzroy, one of seven children to Henry ‘Money’ Miller (Melbourne General Cemetery) the well-known financier and politician and Eliza née Mattinson. After his education at Melbourne Boys’ Grammar School (1866-71) he acted as manager of this father’s stations at Kulkyne and in the Riverina; upon his father’s death in 1888, Miller inherited part of the estimated £1,620,000 estate. But it was horse racing that Miller made his name, having from his early youth an enthusiastic love of horses and racing and with brother Albert, conducted a large racing empire. 

In 1885 Miller was elected to the Victoria Racing Club committee (1885-1925) and later chairman (1895-1906), The Argus noting “it was mainly owing to his sound business knowledge that the club weathered the financial storm following the burst of the land boom”; the VRC Cantala Stakes was named in recognition of Miller’s contribution to the industry which his horse Chal won the inaugural race in 1919. The Millers owned many champion jumpers. His first major success was in 1886 when Wilham Tell won the VRC Newmarket Handicap and the VATC Oakleigh Plate followed by VRC Standish Handicap in 1887. But it was with the champion jumper Redleap that Miller gained the most success; contemporary writers of the day considered the horse “as the greatest performer ever seen over obstacles in Australia”. The year 1892 showed what a champion Redleap was made of: he won the Grand National Hurdle for the second time on 11 stone 12 pounds; the four miler Australian Steeplechase on 13 stone 12 pounds; and the Grand National Steeplechase with 13 stone 3 pounds considered a weight record in Australia. Redleap’s success led to Miller building the Mill Park stables at Bundoora. 

Other notable horses include Eaglet (1888 Australian Steeplechase, 1889 VRC Grand National Steeplechase); Wiori (1890 Moonee Valley Cup); Preston (1894 Moonee Valley Cup, 1895 VRC St. Leger Stakes); Whernside (1898 VRC Autumn Steeplechase); Hayseed (1897 & 1900 Grand National Steeplechase); and Duke of Portland (1901 Oakleigh Plate). Miller was twice married to Clara née Bell whom they had a daughter Gwendoline (1889-1902), and Helen née Henderson whom they had a son Ronald (1915-90, 252359 Flt-Lieut RAAF DFC, 1940-46). Unlike his father and brother Sir Edward (1848-1932), Miller never aspired to the political arena but was known as a free-trader; he held directorships in a number of companies including “Victorian Life Assurance Co” and “Victorian Fire Assurance Co”. 

Suffering from heart troubles since 1913, Miller died at his mansion Cantala – Dandenong Road, Caulfield; his estate was valued at £494,660 for which he bequeathed to nieces and nephews and various Melbourne hospitals. H Bryon Moore (q.v.) the secretary of the VRC (1881-1925) who died just two weeks later was a pallbearer at his funeral.

The Argus 9 June 1925 & 12 May 1926.
The Herald 8 June 1925.
The Age 9 & 10 June 1925.
Australasian 7 November 1925.
Melbourne Punch 29 Oct 1903.

(Reproduced with kind permission of the Australian Racing Museum)