Sean Miller was tragically propelled into the limelight virtually overnight when his father Peter passed away in 2011. However, the legendary Kimberley trainer’s son was well prepared for the task at hand, having worked around the yard since the age of 14 and having played a big role in running the stable in the months before his dad’s passing. The results are there for all to see. The Sean Miller yard finds itself in eighth place on the current national trainers’ log, ahead of several yards that have won Gr 1 races this season. This is no mean feat as the bulk of the stable operates at Flamingo Park, with an average of less than one race meeting per week and the lowest prize money levels in SA. Obviously, the satellite yard in PE which is so ably looked after by Byron Forster has played its part in the success story, but nevertheless the Miller stable is clearly in very good hands. It enjoys the continued support of some of the biggest owners in the business, and their faith in 22-year-old Sean has not been at all misplaced. A recent 1-2-3 finish in one of Flamingo Park’s most important races was ample proof of that.
What is your name and age? Sean Peter Miller and I am 22 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Taurus – May 3rd .
Where were you born? Kimberley – Northern Cape.
Where do you live? Kimberley – Northern Cape.
Tell us about your family? My mom, Stephanie, my girlfriend, Cornell.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? Seana.
Favourite food? Meat in its various varieties.
Favourite drink? Brandy and Coke.
Favourite music? Pop and country music.
Favourite sport? Rugby.
Favourite soccer team? Liverpool.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Holidays have never been a perk. I would like to travel to racing centres in America and I enjoy hunting in the winter.
Tell us about your school days? I was in Diamantveld High School. My attendance was poor because I was mostly at rugby or at the stables.
How did your love for horses materialize? I have always been a lover of animals. After I started working for my dad at the stables I was hooked.
As a young man did your father give you tasks to do in the stables? Yes. From the age of 14 when I started working in the stables.
Did your father teach you by example or did he talk you through things? By example – he threw me in the deep end and afterwards he would tell me how to improve.
Your father, the great Peter Miller, was undoubtedly the ‘King of Kimberley’ racing. His passing was a huge loss to the industry. Was it his ambition for you to follow in his footsteps as a trainer? He enjoyed it very much that I wanted to train, but I was never under pressure to be like him.
When did you take charge of your late dad’s string and in your own mind were you ready for the arduous task? In the last few months before he passed away most of the care of the Kimberley stable was left to my mom and I. Life doesn’t always wait for you to be ready. I had to take charge immediately.
Did you feel the weight of the owners’ expectations when you initially took over the yard? Most of our owners are long standing patrons and friends of my dad and there was hardly any pressure from their side.
You have some really big owners in your yard viz. Markus Jooste and partners, amongst others. Did you feel any pressure on you to maintain the momentum that your father had built up in the stable? Yes certainly, I had to earn their trust.
Have you found that being involved with such a successful businessman as Markus Jooste has changed your ideas about how to run your business? Even though I think Markus Jooste is a brilliant businessman and a gentleman, all horses in our stable are treated in the same way, despite who the owners are. There are no half measures, either right or wrong.
How is your relationship with Markus Jooste? I have a lot of respect for him and we get along very well with him and his family. Due to him being a big businessman we have little time to spend together. Derek Brugman is his racing manager, who I get along with very well, and we speak at least once a day.
Being quite far out of the way in Kimberley is it difficult getting any jockeys to ride work for you? We only make use of work riders in Kimberley.
Your grooms must ride a lot of work for you. As we have seen in the grooms races some are very skilled. Who are your best work riders and how good is the feedback they give you? We have 4 main work riders. Jonathan, Madys, Toeksie and Simon, who between them have more than 60 years experience. We take into account the feedback they give us.
Do you have a stable jockey? We don’t make use of one jockey exclusively. Donovan Mansour was our stable jockey, but he has left for Mauritius. Our 3 main jockeys in Kimberley at the moment are Gunter Wrogemann, Felix Coetzee and Nooresh Juglall.
You have a satellite yard in Port Elizabeth run by Byron Foster who is doing an excellent job. How often do you travel down to monitor the on-goings? Like Mike de Kock we have very able staff in our satellite yard. I do travel down on a regular basis.
Discuss the relationship between you and Byron Foster. We get along very well.
Which do you consider to be the best horses you have in training? On reliability it should be African Vision, Water Jet and Arctic Jet, but on class and potential Jupiter Symphony.
How many horses do you have in training in Kimberley and Port Elizabeth? Between 80 and 90 in Kimberley and 32 in Port Elizabeth.
What has been the most exciting day for you since you have taken over the yard? The day we finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Flamingo Park Handicap which is our biggest race in Kimberley. That day top trainers from other parts of the country were also competing.
Your father loved going to the various sales and picking horses to buy. Do you have the same enthusiasm for studying breeding and conformation as he had? Yes. I do love to see future horses for S.A., but at this early stage of training I prefer buying horses in training with potential and trying to improve on them.
Which stallions excite you and whose progeny would you like to train? I am a big fan of Jet Master and Kahal, because you have a big chance of finding winners. I would like to train Trippi youngsters.
If for any reason you had to give up training what other career path would you choose? I would farm in the Kalahari.
Do you have a punt on the horses and how successful are you as a punter? We try to have a small win on the horses but not more than R1000. We have a very low success rate with favourites and I would rather try to find an outsider to run a place.
Do you think racing is well-policed? Yes, despite popular belief.
Was there ever a time when you considered having a career outside of racing? No.
What are your short and long term ambitions? Short term is to top the log in the Northern Cape and maybe finish top 15 in the country. I have plenty of long term ambitions, but, most realistically, I would like to finish in the top 5 in the country and to win the Emerald Cup with a Kimberley horse.
What do you think could be done to create excitement into racing to create more enthusiasm for the game by the public? By stopping the negativity between owners, trainers and jockeys. It would make the sport approachable for the public and would help to make racing a very exciting experience.