Tribute to Richard Miller
It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Richard and our sincerest condolences goes out to Spill, Michael. Andrew and Carrie and all of his grandchildren. Richard was firstly a very talented rider and became leading National Rider in 1972 and 1973 and secondly as a very well respected Senior Steward covering the Wessex area.
A private funeral will be held by the family with a celebration of his life taking place on August 11. Anyone wishing to attend should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Bracher visited Richard in 2017 and a very pleasant afternoon was spent in his company when he reminisced about his life and his involvement with point to pointing. The article produced at that time is reprised in full as a tribute to Richard and the memories he recalled on that afternoon.
Richard Miller’s involvement with point-to-point racing has been both significant and long lasting. From his riding days which started in 1954 through to his role as a Senior Steward he has been involved in the sport he loves for nearly 55 years. During that time he was champion men’s rider in 1972 and 1973 and rode 178 winners with a further two winners under National Hunt rules including a victory at Cheltenham. Whilst his son Michael topped the total number of winners taking into account his winners under rules Richard just comes out on top by three winners of races run at point –to –points. This is no mean achievement taking into account the fact that when Richard was riding the season started in February and finished at the end of May and there were less opportunities for riders in the days when Sunday racing did not exist.
Recalling how it all started at the age of 20 his first ride at the long defunct course of Coombe Bissett near Salisbury on an unraced gelding of his father Lionel called Even Keel was in his words ‘ it frightened me to death’ but he survived to tell the tale as the partnership pulled up. His first success followed the next year on a gelding called Heart of Gold who won the Portman Hunt race at Badbury Rings near Wimborne. This victory was a surprise as the gelding had incurred an injury which meant that his father had to bathe the horse’s knee in hot water for every available hour prior to the race. However history was intended to happen and the gelding ran out a two length winner at the odds of 25-1.
Throughout the 1960’s Richard’s number of winners started to grow with his partnership with a gelding called Bushwhacker being a notable highlight when he rode five victories on him in 1966. However it was the 1970’s when Richard achieved national recognition when he was champion rider in both 1972 and 1973 season with 21 and 23 winners respectively. This was principally due to his partnership with three horses who Richard was quick to credit. Firstly there was Annie Tory’s Court Gardens who won seven races over the two seasons and who was his winner at Cheltenham and next Debonair Boy who was unbeaten in his seven races in 1972. Described by Richard as the best horse he ever rode Debonair Boy was ‘an easy ride and he never put a foot wrong over his fences’. Finally his principal contributor to his winning tally in 1973 was the late Max Churches’ Rich Rose upon whom he rode seven victories.
More successes followed but no more championships as David Turner monopolised the rest of the decade and at the age of 49 after nearly 30 years of riding he decided to retire as a jockey. His final victory on a mare called Rose D’Amour owned by Martin Mayne, a school friend and neighbour of Richard’s came appropriately at Badbury Rings, the scene of his first win, on 30th April 1983. The Mackenzie and Selby annual for that year ended the comment about the mare with ‘provided Richard with his farewell success in the saddle after a long career which has given so much pleasure to his many supporters’.
However this was the just the start of the second part of Richard’s involvement with point-to-point racing in the Wessex area. In 1982 Richard had started to act a Steward for local meetings and this role continued right up to 2009 when by then he was acting as Senior Steward for more than 10 meetings a season. Explaining his decision to take on a Steward role he said that ‘I wanted to give something back to the sport I love’ and that ‘as a former rider I consider that I am well placed to ensure the rules are followed’. Always regarded as a very fair and well respected Steward his approach was often by giving ‘ a word in the ear of the jockey who may have broken the rules rather than a formal enquiry’ and many riders knew not to break the rules when Richard was standing as a Steward. Richard did add that in all his time as a Steward ‘ I never sustained an objection ‘ taking the view that riding in races will always produce incidents that are part and parcel of point-to-pointing.
Having lived in the Portman country for most of his life he still retains his enthusiasm for the sport although some of the recent changes do not meet with his approval. He is known as ‘The Jolly Miller’ for his positive outlook on life and when on a point-to point course he is often found to be smiling or laughing with long standing friends.