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A Return To Kimberley Remains The Dream

One of SA racing's great survivors - and he soldiers on

The fallout from the well-documented Flamingo Park debacle continues some years after the gates were padlocked on South Africa’s only sand racecourse.

While he has never fully recovered from the blow of having the rug literally pulled from under his well-worn vellies, 65 year old  Hollywoodbets-sponsored Fairview trainer Cliffie Miller has maintained his bearded smile and made the most of a bad situation.

Still smiling – Cliffie Miller was snapped by Pauline Herman at Monday’s weather curtailed meeting at Fairview

A brief stint, courtesy of Gold Circle’s hospitality, in KwaZulu-Natal following the Flamingo Park closure saw Cliffie and his team again hit the long road to Gqeberha in early 2021, where he currently plies his trade.

So after 42 years of blissful stability, two provincial moves in short time were not exactly the tonic the Jagersfontein-born  William George Clifton Miller needed in his life.

While he has never found himself in the champion fold as he did in the Northern Cape, Cliffie has adapted his attitude and soldiers on with just 30 horses.

On Friday he saddled Naval Spirit and Greenlighttoheaven to a glorious 1-12 in the R175 000 Nelson Mandela Bay Racing Poly Challenge Leg 1 at Fairview.

He followed up with a double as the pretty grey Sliver Slippers won the last.

At the weather interrupted Monday meeting at the same venue, Cliffie saddled the former Sean Tarry galloper Mon Tresor, who shed her maiden in the style of a horse who will win again. The racemeeting was abandoned  a race later due to surface and visibility concerns. But it’s been a positive few days all round for Team Miller.

The Miller duo fight out the Nelson Mandela Bay Racing Poly Challenge leg 1 last Friday (Pic – Pauline Herman)

“I am really very happy with both Naval Spirit and Greenlighttoheaven. This puts us in the series with a chance to do really well as 1200m is their minimum trip – so the 1400m and mile mean that we are in a more comfortable zone. We are going to do be doing our best believe me, and I’m so thankful to my owners for the support.”

Naval Spirit is a first Cliffie Miller charge to run in the famous Suzette Viljoen silks.

“I must thank Basie (Viljoen). He called me and said let’s run him, despite him being out at the weights. You see, we trainers maybe overthink the science and maths of it, sometimes,” he laughs.

Cliffie has trained winners in every centre, bar the Cape where he has not had a runner. He suggests the spread of owner support is key to racing’s prosperity.

“The big yards are getting bigger and steamrollering the smaller guys. It’s not good for the racing ecosystem – it makes for boring racing too as competition is at the core of this sport.  I’m thus really grateful to Basie and Suzette for their support.”

When asked what he thought of the Cape’s recent new initiatives, Cliffie says it’s exciting and is bound to get support.

“The Cape landed up where it was through the imbalances of power but thankfully two great men in Owen Heffer and Greg Bortz have come to the table and rescued the situation. I was invited there some years ago but would never have been competitive with my string. Given the massive incentives and the revised programme, maybe I will be looking at travelling.”

Talking about a revival of Northern Cape Racing is Cliffie’s favourite subject.

“There are a few guys looking at the options. I must hold on to the dream of getting back to the grand old days of sand racing. Ironically, I still have Spanish Fort in my string – he is a Flamingo Park original!” he laughs.

Cliffie was in Kimberley a month ago. He says nothing has changed, bar the fact that the track is covered with vegetation.

Zezinho Belo - Flamingo Park 2013-01-07

This is 9 years ago ! Cliffie Miller’s Flamingo Park Sprint winner Zezinho Belo

“It’s not sentimentality but I still have the house in Kimberley. Heather (Reddie, my partner) is there. It’s not ideal living this lifestyle, but we are making things work and I love my horses – they are the best reason to wake up every day. I must be close on my 1000 winner mark. I have plenty to contribute and with more support we can have a lot of fun and train many more winners.”

The second leg  of the Nelson Mandela Bay Racing Polytrack Challenge will be run over 1400m on Friday 30 September 2022. The third leg is run over a mile on Friday 21 October 2022.

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2 comments on “A Return To Kimberley Remains The Dream

  1. Cliffie Miller,Peter Miller,Ouboet van Blerk,uncle John Thomas to mention a few,that was the good old days racing in Kimberley,sadly no more,may you go from strength to strength and get more support,you deserve it!! Good luck

  2. Cliffie says:

    Thank you to sporting post for a lovely article. I must mention a special friend and owner that has supported me 100% here in PE as well in Willem Ackerman. Also M Paddock and all my other owners not many but loyal ones Thank you

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