David Miller enjoyed one of the most memorable days of his harness racing career less than two weeks ago when he won a record five Breeders Crown finals at Woodbine Racetrack. On Saturday, he will be reunited with two of those champions, pacer Always B Miki and trotter The Bank, in American-National Stakes events at Balmoral Park.
Balmoral Park hosts eight American-National Stakes on Saturday, with the final three races in the group featuring Breeders Crown winners: Freaky Feet Pete in the $150,000 contest for 3-year-old male pacers, The Bank in the $204,000 race for 3-year-old male trotters, and Always B Miki in the $136,500 event for older pacers.
Post time is 6:50 p.m. (CST) for the night's first race, which is the non-wagering $101,350 American-National for older trotters. The pari-mutuel card begins 20 minutes later.
Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, is undefeated in three races this year since returning from two injuries that left the stallion sidelined for 11 months. He won his Breeders Crown final by 5-1/2 lengths and has not seen anyone finish nearer than three lengths in his three starts.
For his career, the 4-year-old has won 17 of 34 races and earned $1.15 million. Always B Miki is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter.
"He's taking on older horses with not much racing under his belt this season," Miller said. "I feel that makes it pretty special to do what he's done. He amazes me at times."
The American-National for older pacers also includes the sport's all-time richest horse, Foiled Again, who is coming off a win in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby that pushed his lifetime earnings to $7.28 million. Ben Franklin Pace winner Luck Be Withyou, Bettor's Edge, Ultimate Beachboy, and Let's Drink On It complete the field.
"It's not going to be a cakewalk, that's for sure," Miller said. "You can never take Foiled Again too lightly and it's a nice bunch of horses. But (Always B Miki) will give a good effort, I'm sure of that. If he comes back to the way he was in the Breeders Crown, he should be fine."
The Bank, who surpassed $1 million in career purses with his Breeders Crown win, meets a group of rival 3-year-old male trotters Saturday that includes multiple open stakes-winners Habitat and Muscle Diamond, two-time Ontario Sire Stakes champion Dont Rush, and Homicide Hunter, once beaten in 17 starts in 2015.
For the year, The Bank has won four of 16 races and finished second on eight occasions. In the Breeders Crown, he upset stablemate Pinkman at odds of 14-1. Two of The Bank's runner-up finishes this season came to Hambletonian champion Pinkman, who is the sport's leading money-winning trotter this year.
The Bank is trained by Takter and owned by Christina Takter, Goran Falk, and Goran Anderberg.
"Any time you can upset a horse like Pinkman, it's pretty special," Miller said, reflecting on the Breeders Crown. "The horse raced unbelievable that night. The trip he went and doing what he did was pretty neat. He picked a good night to stand up on his own."
Miller will try to upend Freaky Feet Pete --- who has won 14 of 16 races this year --- with Lost For Words in the American-National for 3-year-old male pacers. Lost For Words has won only once in his most recent 13 starts, but during that span finished no worse than third in the Breeders Crown, Little Brown Jug, Adios, Tattersalls Pace, Milstein Memorial, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
Lost For Words has earned $661,673 this year for trainer Brian Brown and owners Country Club Acres, William Robinson, Richard Lombardo, and Strollin Stable.
"He didn't win any of the major races this year, but they've definitely known he was there," Miller said. "He battled all summer with the top colts and he's had a great season. He's been right there knocking at the door. He's a good horse. The season is catching up with him a little bit, but he'll be all right in there (Saturday)."
Miller will drive in two other American-National Stakes, sitting behind Muscle Baby Doll in the $125,000 3-year-old filly trot, and behind supplemental entry Triple V Hanover in the $120,000 3-year-old filly pace.
Muscle Baby Doll has won 10 of 14 races this season, with two of the victories coming with Miller in the sulky. She heads to the American-National off a triumph with Miller in the Crossroads of America last Friday at Hoosier Park. She won by a neck over Bright Baby Blues, who also is in the American-National.
"I got to race her once this summer and I was real impressed with her," Miller said. "I was happy to get back with her. She battled the whole length of the stretch with Bright Baby Blues last Friday and she put her nose in front at the end. I was impressed with her. She's easy to get along with, she's got a nice gait, and she's got some strength and stamina. She has the fight in her to put her head in front. She's pretty brave."
Muscle Baby Doll is trained by Tony O'Sullivan and owned by Frank and Joe Bellino.
Triple V Hanover, who has won five of 16 races this year for trainer Brian Brown and owners Donald Robinson, King McNamara, and Strollin Stable, finished fourth in her most recent race, the USS Indianapolis Memorial. The race was won by American-National contender Devil Child.
Horses driven by Miller have earned $10.79 million this year, good for second place among all drivers in North America behind Yannick Gingras. It is the 13th time in the last 15 years that Miller has surpassed $10 million. No driver in history has reached $10 million in a season as often as Miller.
Miller said his Breeders Crown night ranked among his greatest days in racing.
"I was proud," Miller said. "I've had some good days, some really good days, and great moments. But that was one I'll always remember."
by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications