Miller back on track in Maryland

February 25, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

A familiar face is about to return to the jockeys' room at Laurel Race Course.

Donnie Miller Jr., the state's leading rider in the pre-Kent Desormeaux era, is returning to compete at the Maryland tracks after a three-year absence.

Miller, 30, isn't expected to start riding until Thursday, but one trainer, Jerry Robb, already has named him to ride Prince of Royalty in tomorrow's $35,000 Herat Stakes.

Miller said he has riding commitments over the weekend at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., preventing him from arriving here until early next week.

Miller is expected to ride a lot of Robb's horses, especially since his regular jockey, Greg Hutton, is in the hospital with some broken vertebrae after a bad spill Sunday, Robb said. Robb said he expects Hutton to be out of action for "a month or two."

Miller, tied for 11th place in the standings at Turfway, said he is returning to Laurel "mainly because of my family. Each time I come back to visit, it gets harder to leave."

Nearly ever member of Miller's immediate family works at the track. His father, Donnie Sr., is a trainer and films races in the afternoons for the International Sound Co. His mother, Judy, and sister, Tracy, work in group sales; and another sister, Cindy, also is employed by International Sound.

Since leaving Maryland, Miller has ridden at Northern California tracks; for the past two years he has competed at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and on the Kentucky circuit. His biggest recent win came last fall, when he broke a track record on Anjiz in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland (Ky.) Race Course.

Miller's agent, Brian McKenzie, is expected to arrive at Laurel today. In 1983, Miller teamed with local trainer Billy Boniface and won the Preakness Stakes with Deputed Testamony.

Summer makeup days

Laurel/Pimlico general manager John E. Mooney said yesterday that the 13 Laurel live cards canceled this year won't be made up until "late spring or early summer, and then it's not going to be possible to make up all of the races that were lost."

A total of 122 races, worth about $1.5 million in purses, were canceled because of inclement weather or poor track conditions.

Mooney said that because a lot of horses missed training this winter, "entries are now light. We certainly felt the impact this week when we ran six days [including Presidents Day on Monday]. I don't see that turning around in the immediate future."

Mooney said some entire cards could be made up on Wednesdays and that some races could be added to existing cards, but not immediately. "The weather is still unpredictable, especially this winter," he said.

On about half of the days when live races were canceled, the track still offered full-card simulcasts from out-of-state tracks. Horsemen and management groups each took half of those revenues.

Through Feb. 13, earnings from the simulcasts had significantly cut the purse overpayments from $2.4 million to about $1.6 million.


John Myers, trainer of Horatius Stakes runner-up Takeitlikeaman, said he has changed his mind and the horse will not run March 4 in the Cherry Hill Mile. "Too close," Myers said. Instead, the 3-year-old gelding is likely to run March 21 in the $125,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company Stakes in Ocala, Fla. The horse, owned by Myers' wife, Snowie, left Monday for his winter training quarters at the Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C. . . . Constance Capuano's multiple-stakes winning mare, Silver Tango, has been shipped back to Maryland from Oaklawn Park and is scheduled to run tomorrow in a $25,000 allowance race at Laurel. The race is a prep for the March 13 Conniver Stakes for older Maryland-bred fillies and mares.

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