Mackenzie "Mack" Miller, the Hall of Famer who personified the old
school of gentleman trainers, died Saturday morning at the Markey Cancer
Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he had been
hospitalized since having a stroke Dec. 5. He was 89.
Miller and his wife, Martha, lived in his hometown, Versailles, Ky.,
just west of Lexington. Miller retired from training in 1995 when his
longtime client, Paul Mellon, began dispersing his racing stock. Miller was best known for training Mellon's homebred, Sea
Hero, to win the 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers, but he also trained
more than 70 other stakes winners, including Fit to Fight, Java Gold,
and Snow Knight, all for Mellon. He was based primarily in New York
during his 46-year training career.
"Mack was a great, great horse trainer, but an even better human
being," said Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who rode Sea Hero to win
the Derby. "All I have about him is kind words. He was like a second dad
away from home for me. There are probably quite a few characters on the
racetrack, but for me, as an impressionable young man in New York at
25, my hooking up with Mack was probably the best thing that ever
happened to me."
With the 13-1 upset in the 119th Derby by Sea Hero, Miller and Mellon
became known as a horse racing version of the Sunshine Boys for
capturing the sport's greatest prize at the ages of 71 and 85,
respectively. That success was widely acknowledged and applauded as a
much-deserved crowning achievement, given their lifelong devotion to
racing and their genteel manner.