Day At The Track

Fredi Herrera makes driving debut at Gaitway

10:40 AM 08 Jun 2016 NZST
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Fredi Herrera Fredi Herrera and Southwind Cruze
Fredi Herrera
Ken Weingartner Photo
Fredi Herrera and Southwind Cruze
Ken Weingartner Photo

Manalapan, NJ --- When announcer Larry Lederman went through the driver changes for Monday's eighth-race harness racing qualifier at Gaitway Farm, spectators shared a few puzzled looks when Fredi Herrera was named on the No. 1 horse, Southwind Cruze, from the stable of trainer Julie Miller.

As it turned out, Herrera and Southwind Cruze were making their career debuts together.

A 33-year-old native of Guatemala, Herrera has spent more than half his life in the U.S. working for harness racing stables in Chicago and New Jersey. He began working as an assistant trainer for Julie and Andy Miller in December. His new employers were impressed with his abilities and encouraged him to get a driver's license.

Several weeks ago, Herrera received a license that enables him to drive in qualifiers and fairs. Paul Stafford, another Miller Stable assistant who knew Herrera from his days in Chicago, helped Herrera with the process.

"I knew him from Chicago, but when you work with someone you gain respect for their horsemanship," Julie Miller said. "He was really talented and had a good set of hands and willingness to learn under Andy on the driving aspect of it. We wanted to give him a chance with some horses that he's been training down for us. He's been really successful and we're really proud of him."

Herrera drove in four qualifiers on Monday. He drove two 2-year-old trotters for Miller and also picked up drives from Tony Alagna and Scott DiDomenico. His best finish came with DiDomenico's 6-year-old trotter Panamanian Hanover, a second, although he missed victory by only 1-1/2 lengths with Southwind Cruze while finishing fifth.

"I was a little nervous, but it's good," Herrera said. "I want to start qualifying now and see if I'm good or no good. Maybe I can make it. This is my plan."

Herrera came to the U.S. in 1999 and spent 10 years in Chicago before moving to New Jersey.

"I've never done anything else but work with horses," said Herrera, who was an assistant trainer at multiple stables before joining Team Miller. "I like it. I'm happy."

Miller was happy to see Herrera on the track for his first drives.

"We hope he continues to qualify and has success, wherever the journey takes him," she said.

Ken Weingartner

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