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Age or distance doesn't stop the thrill of winning!

With Gaze being trained in the North Island and her 87 year old owner/breeder Melba Murfitt living in Christchurch she doesn't get to see her quality mare race very often.

Last Sunday when the mare won the Listed Jim and John Evans Limited Classic at Counties was no exception – Melba had to be content to watch the race on Trackside television. That didn't lessen the thrill of seeing her blitz a field which featured eight other group race winners.

"It was a lovely win and I was so thrilled especially for Roger who has been so frustrated lately with Gaze not being able to get a start in the two Hastings races, she really went a great race. He didn't decide to start her at Pukekohe until the last minute so there was no way I could get there," added an obviously delighted Melba.

Melba and her late husband Mick ran the Riccarton Stud where they stood such successful stallions as Treasure Hunt, Ribotlight, and latterly Palatable the sire of Eye Full. She is the dam of Gaze and this is a family that is dear to the Melba's heart. Mick was also a successful trainer, but breeding was his passion.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Melba Murffit met her husband Mick over 60 years ago. At that time she had never even seen a horse up close, let alone did she know one end from the other. She sure does now. As well in those days she was a regular church goer with dreams of being a missionary – well she maintains that with the number of apprentices that lived with her and Mick over the years when he was training, that God recognised her calling and she didn't have to go overseas to "save the children" so to speak.

"In the early 50's Mick went to the dispersal sale of a chemist who had died and took pity on a miserable looking filly by Treasure Hunt from Tan Lady and put in the only bid of 15 pounds ($30) for her. He was a softie like that – he would sleep in the box with a sick horse if he had too – he was very dedicated like that and he really loved his stock and his stud.

"We named her Smuggles, she was a dear little racehorse and proved to be an absolute gold mine. She won a race at the Riccarton meeting at August, when the mud was right up to her knees, coming right down the outside fence, and paid 120 pound ($240)! Anyway she left Smuggler's Bank and she left I Spy who left the stakes winners Peach Melba and Eye Full and the stakes placed Dainty Dish, all by Palatable.

"In the early 90's we started sending our mares a bit further afield to the North Island
When we started breeding from Eye Full she went to mainly North Island stallions and produced her two stakes placed winners Eye for an Eye (Lord Ballina) and Vision (Entrepreneur) before leaving Gaze who is by Cape Cross, another North Island based stallion.

"After Mick died I left her in the North Island, and later when I sold the farm and dispersed the stock, I have left my mares and stock in the capable care of Robyn and Russell Rogers. They are wonderful people and look after me and my horses very well. Eye Full, the dam of Gaze, has retired from breeding and is spending her last days grazing there," said Melba.

Gaze has a younger half sister by Viking Ruler in work with Roger James and Paul Mirabelli, and in keeping with the family tradition of naming the horses with something to do with eyes, she has been named Optic. Her half sister Vision has a Black Minnaloushe yearling filly, hopefully to be named Shiner, and this year will visit Great Britain, a full brother to Cape Cross. Dainty Diva (Paris Opera – Dainty Dish) is in foal to Lucky Unicorn, as is her daughter Soviet Diva (Soviet Star), but they will be rested this year.

"These days I only breed from a couple of mares and I don't breed them every year. I am sure that my racing and breeding affairs keep me active, after all I have to keep track of their matings, where they are racing and keep on top of all the accounts. I might be 88 in November but I am not slowing down.

"Mick and I worked so hard over the years and since he has died the horses have kept me alive, he would be thrilled to his boots with Gaze, he would be so proud of her and so am I."

- Michelle Saba


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