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That Golden feeling of Group One Glory

"Breeding a Group One winner is just about as good as winning a gold medal, especially when it's a Group One winner at Flemington!"

Group 1 glory for Orange County at Flemington Photo: Turf Monthly
That was the delighted reaction of Southland breeder Onawe Miller when discussing the win of Orange County (Volksraad-Saffie) in the Group One Sir Rupert Stakes at Flemington last Saturday. And on Monday to add to the excitement, right on cue, Saffie produced a full brother to Orange County at Windsor Park Stud.

It is the first Group One winner bred by Onawe Miller from a family that has been in her family for more than 40 years, and is now being bred from by her daughter Petrena who owns Saffie and continues to breed from her.

"It's a great feeling when you get up in the morning and get out in the fresh air with the animals to know that there is a Group One winner out there that you have bred."

Onawe and her husband Murray farm in Southland, but have downsized to only 100 acres, where the horses share the land with sheep, cattle and Sanaan milking goats.
An active member of the Southland branch of the NZTBA she was the second woman to be elected to the NZTBA Council in 1992, and is only the second woman to have been awarded life membership to the NZTBA, an honour that was bestowed on her in 2003.

Her involvement in thoroughbreds is life long and there is a bit of an "urban myth" or should that be "rural" that her ancestors even rustled a few thoroughbreds here from Australia in the early days.

"This has been a fabulous family for producing winners. My father, Harold Day, bought Bayboa who was from a good producing family at a dispersal sale, and in 1960 bred Midmeadow Maid by Kurdistan. From her he bred the Bellborough mare Meadow Bell. My mother and I decided to send Meadow Bell to Thornton Park where Garry Chittick was standing Super Gray, the first Nijinksy horse to stand at stud in New Zealand.

"There we bred Super Dude, a Group Three winner of 15 races, and Ingres. Sir Godfrey was standing alongside Super Gray and to him Meadow Belle left three winners - News and Views, Good Country and Winter White. Ingres was unraced due to injury and went to stud and produced Saffie (by Kaapstad) – the dam of Orange County and two winners - Ingresea (Beaufort Sea) and So Long Sailor (Yachtie).

"Saffie failed to flatter as a racehorse and I'm not much of an owner. I get too stressed and don't enjoy that side of the game much, although I did have a lot of luck with Sopherim – but we will get to her later – so Saffie went off to stud.

"Her first foal went to Singapore and the next was Ain't No Pussycat (Felix The Cat). She won her first start and last Sunday her first foal by Al Jadeed, I'm On The List, won his first trial. I have a Keeninsky filly to sell at the yearling sales this summer and the mare is in foal to Coat's Choice.

"Orange County was the next foal and was sold to Brian Mayfield-Smith for $70,000. Prior to his wonderful Group One win he had won seven races including the listed Sofitel Stakes at Flemington and had been stakes-placed four times - not bad from 26 starts. And that was the last foal I bred out of her. The rest have all been bred by Petrena. Saffie has a yearling colt by Black Minnaloushe which is in the Premier Sale this summer.

"Ingres also left Ingresea who won four races and left a pretty useful filly in Cat Shmea (Felix The Cat) who won three races and was stakes placed. She in turn has left Velocitea (Volksraad) who, from three starts as a two-year-old last season, won two races and was second in the listed Champagne Stakes at Riccarton.

"The family seems to have clicked well with Felix The Cat and Volksraad. Winter White has had a couple of winners by him as well. Her best foal though was my Centaine mare Sopherim - she was an exciting race mare and won 13 races including the Group Three Invercargill Gold Cup. Her half brother Ronzino (Waikiki Star) was a stakes winner of nine races. Sopherim has also left a winner by Volksraad in Saints Union. I am keeping her Thorn Park yearling filly and she is due to foal to My Halo, and I think I will give her a year off."

A quick search of the NZTR website on Onawe's mares and their progeny and you can understand why she may give 19 year old Sopherim a break, there are plenty of them. However with spring racing in Australia just beginning and plenty of her progeny racing locally, Onawe could well be in for more thrills this season all thanks to her father's keen eye for a horse a few decades ago and her dedication to breeding fine thoroughbreds.

- Michelle Saba


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