Driver, 84, Wins With Favourite

Published: September 25, 2018 01:10 pm EDT

Although Chuck Perry connected for a natural driving hat trick for the third straight race day and track record holder Johns Dream was dominant in the feature once again, the highlight of the second weekend of racing at Shenandoah Downs was when 84-year-old driver Sam Miller directed Hay George to a come-from-behind win in a $3,500 race on Sunday (Sept. 23).

Not only did Miller capably guide his five-year-old gelded trotter past Explosive Bubbles and Fins Up in the stretch, he was sent off as the 3-2 betting choice in the six-horse field. Hay George was third throughout the early going and crossed three-quarters of a length the best in 2:08 over a ‘sloppy’ track.

“Damn, I can still do this at my age,” Miller exulted after Sunday’s win. “It was a rush. Hay George is just an amazing horse. He is so well behaved, he doesn’t pull and he listens to me. I just sit there and go for a ride.”

When asked if he remembered his last driving win, Miller said, “Wow, I’ll have to think about that one.”

Sam Miller, pictured in the winner’s circle with Hay George on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 at Shenandoah Downs (Dee Leftwich)

Miller’s path to Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock, Virginia came as a result of rejection elsewhere.

“They wouldn’t let me drive in Delaware any more because of my age, so I called Craig Andow (the race secretary) at Ocean Downs about racing there this summer,” said Miller. “He said, ‘Sam, just retire.'”

After filling out the paperwork needed, Miller and his trotter were able to get one start at the Ocean City, Maryland oval and finished a respectable fifth, less than two lengths behind the winner. “I wasn’t able to get into a race again at ‘Ocean,’ so decided to come to Woodstock.”

Miller is based in Dover, Delaware and has been in harness racing for 46 years. Previously, he was a tractor trailer driver while his wife always tended to the horses. He plans to keep on competing with Hay George for the rest of the meet at Shenandoah Downs.

“I told my wife I’ll retire when I can’t win a race any more,” Miller said. “I need something to do or else I’ll end up in a recliner getting old and fat.”

Shenandoah Downs will continue racing every Saturday and Sunday through October 14 with first post at 2 p.m.

The season’s highlight will take place this Saturday (September 29) when Foiled Again, harness racing’s top money-earning horse ever, will compete in a $10,000 Aged Invitational Pace, then appear for a Meet & Greet session with fans.

(With files from the Virginia Equine Alliance)