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Racing Reflections With David Miller

Published: December 7, 2020 2:56 pm ET

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David Miller never thought twice about a career, and it’s safe to say his chosen path has more than paid off. Miller, who was enshrined in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2014, continued to add to his list of accomplishments in 2020, surpassing $250 million in career purses and 13,000 in career wins.

The Ohio native, who turns 56 on Thursday, ranks No. 2 in history in driver earnings, behind only John Campbell, and is No. 5 in victories.

“This is no lie; I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do,” Miller said. “I wanted to drive and train horses, be around horses. I was around horses right from the start. My grandad (Clyde) and my dad (Donny) both had horses and trained. I remember going to the barn on the weekends at 7 or 8 years old and riding in my dad’s lap on the track training and going to the races at the county fairs when I was little.

“I was lucky. I never had to second guess. I never played sports in school, I just wanted to be with the horses.”

When Miller was around the age of 10, his father bought him an old pacing mare to take care of, helping set the foundation for the years ahead.

“I would jog her and train her; it was pretty cool,” Miller said. “She couldn’t go very fast, but she was safe. Dad let me loose on her and then soon I got to training with him.

“With her, I learned a lot. I had to take care of her, too. I had to clean her stall, jog her, I put her away. I bathed her, rubbed her legs, I actually looked after her. I think that’s an important part of it. I think once you get to working with them, you grow more attached to them and you begin to understand them.”

Miller began driving at the matinees at age 12. In the ensuing early years of his career, he began enjoying success at the county fairs.

“It took me a couple years to get my first win because when I was 12 or 13, I might drive three races a year,” Miller said. “When I got to the fairs, those horses were pretty good. I just had to sit there and not fall off and they would usually win.”

In 1990, Miller cracked the top 20 in wins in North America and three years later he was named the Rising Star Award winner by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Since then, he has been named Driver of the Year on three occasions — 2003, 2015 and 2016. He has ranked among the top five in purses 20 of the past 21 seasons and is fourth this year.

Miller’s 2020 campaign got off to a difficult start when two stars he piloted in 2019, Real Cool Sam and Papi Rob Hanover, were sidelined. But Miller’s season picked up with the likes of Perfect Sting, Lady Chaos, Century Farroh, Cattlewash, Blue Diamond Eyes, and Test Of Faith. Miller won three Breeders Crown trophies, upping his career total to 27, which is tied for fourth in the history of the event.

“I did more than I thought I was going to,” Miller said. “In about July, I was thinking this might be a lean year. But (trainer) Ronnie Burke started using me, and that helped, and I was fortunate to have some other really nice horses. It ended up being a fantastic season.”

Miller does not follow his stats, but said reaching $250 million in lifetime purses, which he accomplished while winning last month’s Three Diamonds with Blue Diamond Eyes, was special.

“I’m very happy and amazed,” Miller said. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.

“People have told me, the older I get, the stronger I’m getting. I don’t feel any different than I did 12 or 15 years ago. I still feel good in the bike and I enjoy what I do. I feel like I’m still in my 40s. I know some people might think that’s still a little old, but I don’t feel 55 turning 56.

“That goes to show you, you just keep steady, grinding away at it, and you never know.”

Even if you knew what you wanted to do all along.


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