Day At The Track

Tyler Miller has learned well from parents

02:20 AM 13 Apr 2021 NZST
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Tyler Miller, harness racing
Tyler Miller
Ken Weingartner Photo

Trenton, NJ — In any profession that takes place in the public arena, an offspring trying to follow in their famous parents’ footsteps usually has advantages and disadvantages, such as the pressure of living up to their predecessors’ accomplishments.

Harness racing driver Tyler Miller, however, feels it’s a one-way street void of potholes.

“I really only think it helps me,” Miller said. “I guess the pressure of my mom and dad being my mom and my dad just fuels my fire even more and makes me try to be as good as them, if not better.”

That in itself is a lofty goal as Tyler’s dad is Andy Miller, who ranks 20th in North American harness racing history with 9,663 wins. And then there is his mom, Julie Miller, who has 2,020 training victories, and his uncle Erv Miller, with 5,654 training triumphs. Julie ranks 19th in lifetime purses for a trainer ($45,718,446) and Erv is third ($89,904,892).

With that kind of pedigree, it’s no surprise Miller climbed into the sulky after earning a business administration degree from Rider University.

“It’s always been in my life from when I was born,” the 23-year-old said. “I’ve always lived my life at the racetrack and didn’t really see a different career path for me.”

He was not forced into it, but just the opposite. While his parents gave Tyler free reign on his career path, Julie firmly insisted he get a college degree to have something to fall back on. Miller had no problem with that, although he began to sense his future while attending New Jersey’s Allentown High School, which is nestled in a cradle of outstanding harness racing personalities.

Tyler had always helped around the barn on weekends and in the summer. But around age 14, when he would attend a Hambletonian or Meadowlands Pace, is when Miller started to realize his dad was a cut above in his profession.

“When they had the autograph sessions at The Meadowlands, you’d just see these huge lines of people waiting to get autographs from all the drivers racing that day, and you’re like ‘Well one of the people they’re waiting to get an autograph from is my dad,’” Tyler recalled. “That was pretty cool to see and realize what was actually going on.”

Around that same time, Julie was interviewed by and quipped that “I overlap how I treat horses and kids.” Asked if his mom ever inadvertently served him hay for dinner, Tyler laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe we ended up with a bowl of grain at the dinner table and the horse got the steak dinner, but that only happened once.”

Julie’s desire for Tyler to graduate college was no joke, of course, and for four years he put horses on hold except for when he came home in the summer.

“I would come back if they needed help, the ride was only 30 minutes away,” Miller said. “But if I went to school, I wanted to make sure I got the full experience of college and live those four years to the fullest. Then I would come back and go to work.

“When I got my degree, I realized that horses were what I wanted to do and I dove right in. My parents gave me a lot of freedom and let me decide what I wanted to do with my career and how I wanted to pursue my life. I chose harness racing and that’s what I’m sticking to.”

Miller feels his infatuation with driving began to take hold toward the final two years of high school.

“It’s so much fun to be around these horses, they all have their own personalities,” he said. “Once I started training more at the barn, helping my parents out — going faster on race bike trips and just feeling the horses wanting to race, just the speed and endurance and mainly the adrenaline rush you get from driving — once I got the bug, I couldn’t get rid of it. I really started working at the barn a lot more in the summers and did a lot more around here.”

Tyler’s first drives came while still in college, when he had two wins and two places in seven starts. He made 21 starts with seven wins the following year and went at it full time in 2020, getting 12 wins and hitting the board 57 times in 165 starts while earning $101,300.

After 181 starts this season, he has 17 wins, 12 seconds, 19 thirds and $112,066 in earnings. Miller drives predominantly at Freehold but has also raced at The Meadowlands and Yonkers.

“I’m happy so far,” he said. “It’s always nice to win and stuff, but I’m just trying to take away something from every drive; make each one a learning experience and just take as much away as I can from everything.”

There is no specific victory that stands out so far, but some that are special.

“Mainly just racing and winning some races at The Meadowlands,” Miller said. “Just because that track has such history around it from the number of horses and horsemen and women that have traveled over that track and been around that track. It’s almost surreal to be able to say you’re racing at The Meadowlands.”

Tyler admits that maybe his last name “helps a little” in making his way, but Andy and Julie are letting him do it on his own. Miller refuses to use their names to help himself get drives.

“I’ve kind of been earning my own way,” he said. “I guess it helps because they are my parents and they’ve been around the business forever but for the most part I’m just trying to earn my own way and make my own name for myself.”

He is not averse to asking Andy for tips but is quick to point out his dad would never force advice on him.

“He kind of lets me do my own thing and learn as I go, but he’s always there if I have a question of whether I should have done this or should have done that,” Tyler said. “But he doesn’t tell me how to drive, he kind of just lets me learn how to drive my own way. But he’s always there if I need advice, or tips on how to get the most out of a horse.”

Tyler hasn’t ruled out training in the future but for now is totally focused on making it as a driver. He has no problem going to others beside his dad for help.

“I try to learn something from anybody I can,” he said. “Driving at The Meadowlands is one of the best colony of drivers there is. I try to take something from them, and everywhere else I drive at.”

Sounds like a guy who truly is making his own way.

by Rich Fisher, for the USTA

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