CHESTER PA – Hall Of Fame driver David Miller posted the 14,000th victory of his career on Friday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia when he guided Island Of The Sea to victory. It was not an easy journey for the Always A Virgin gelding, parked past a :26.1 quarter to get the lead then going on to hang up numbers of :54.2 and 1:22 before pacing on to a 1:50 win for trainer Eric Ell, co-owner with Lisa Ell.
Miller, 58 and a proud son of Ohio known as “The Buckeye,” recorded his 14,000th victory in career start 69,240, reflecting a lifetime win percentage over 20%. He is the sixth North American driver to reach the 14,000 figure, and sits fourth among active drivers: preceding him, listed in current order of lifetime victories, were Dave Palone, Tony Morgan, Herve Filion, Cat Manzi, and Aaron Merriman. Miller is also the leading active driver in terms of his horses’ career earnings at $272.5 million, and trails only John Campbell’s all-time mark of $299.9 million.
In the day’s $20,000 Open handicap pace for males, Ruthless Hanover returned to the oval where he started his 2023 career with a pair of victories and added another engine triumph in 1:49.3. The Somebeachsomewhere gelding, trained by Tom Cancelliere for owner/brother John, was in high gear off the gate to clear South Beach Star, whose recent four-race winning streak included the fastest mile of the year on a 5/8-mile track, 1:48.2. After getting the lead towards the :26.2 quarter, George Napolitano Jr. gradually reduced the tempo so that “Ruthless” only had to go :55.4 to reach the half.
The pace certainly picked up from there, as a :27 third quarter brought the winner to the three-quarters in 1:22.4, and from that junction the earner of $375,423 needed a :26.4 last quarter to withstand the tenacious South Beach Star by three-quarters of a length. (In fact, if you deduct the :29.2 second quarter, Ruthless Hanover went his “other” three splits in a total of 1:20.1!)
The companion $20,000 Open distaff pace saw Dougs Babe A hang favored Amazing Dream N beyond a :26.4 opener, wait in the pocket past a :55.4 half and while first-over Mikala went after the leader to and past the 1:23.1 three-quarters, then use the inside to take the victory in 1:50.3. Mikala, in her first start of the year, was within a neck of the winner at the wire; Amazing Dream N, away from the races since her Blue Chip Matchmaker final win April 24, was only another half-length back in third.
The winner is a daughter of Western Terror who was third as the favorite in the Matchmaker final and now has career earnings of $263,411. Nifty Norman trains her for Tom Vassiliou, Nicholas Tallarico, Patricia Stable, and Enzed Racing Stable Inc.
Five drivers won twice on the day, but no driver could bring home three winners; however, trainer Eric Ell did send out a trio of successful horses, including Island Of The Sea for David Miller’s 14,000th.
Racing resumes on Sunday at 12:40 with a $20,000 Open handicap trot and some variety in a 5/8-mile pace and a 1¼-mile trot. The following Sunday, May 28, is Super Sunday at Harrah’s Philadelphia, with three $100,000 Invitationals and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for the three-year-old pacing colts in what might be the best card of the year so far in 2023. Program pages for all Philly cards are or will be available at https://www.phha.org/harrahspps.html.