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Miller Gets Derby Fever After CashCall Victory

10 December 18: Comma to the Top (no. 10), ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by Peter Miller, wins the 30th running of the grade 1 CashCall Futurity Stakes for two year olds at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

Trainer Peter Miller, who sent out favored Comma to the Top to victory in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park Saturday, pinched himself Sunday to make sure the biggest victory of his career was not a dream.

“It’s amazing that these races don’t take much out of him,” said Miller after the fifth straight victory by the Florida-bred 2-year-old gelding. “He’s holding his weight well. He looks 100 per cent and ate up good last night.”

Miller, a 44-year-old Los Angeles native, said he had not yet formulated 2011 plans with co-owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara but the Kentucky Derby is the long range goal.

The $375,000 prize Comma to the Top earned Saturday eliminated any worries about the horse having enough earnings to qualify.

“Winning this race was definitely a career highlight, and the drama made it even more special,” said Miller in reference to a 28-minute delay caused by the winner, who lost a rear shoe in the mud on the way to the paddock and needed to have it replaced.

“It was a crazy crazy day, but at the end, the best horse won,” said Miller. “We were all in the same boat.” Corey Nakatani guided the winner to a 1 ¾-length victory from just off the pace in a driving rainstorm under the lights.

Miller picked the horse out of an Ocala 2-year-old sale in April from the Clyde Rice consignment and purchased him for $22,000. “I thought he would be a nice $40-50,000 claiming horse,” said Miller. “Obviously, he has surpassed that.”

Miller, who broke in as a groom after graduating from high school in the mid-1980’s for Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham, kiddingly called himself The Bald Beagle, for the bald head he shares in common with Whittingham, who was nicknamed The Bald Eagle.

Both have now won the Futurity once, Whittingham accomplishing the feat with Temperate Sil in 1986.

Miller said he celebrated the victory Saturday night with family and friends at the Café Pierre, near the home where he moved into this fall in Manhattan Beach.

Miller relocated his 30-horse stable from his long-time base at San Luis Rey Downs to Hollywood Park for the first time this fall and has reaped major dividends with a banner meet.

Miller has won with 13 of 34 starters, a winning percentage of .38, entering closing day Sunday, highlighted by an unprecedented sweep of the Real Quiet and Generous stakes and the Futurity by Comma at the Top.

“The meet has been just incredible,” said Miller. “Everything has hit the board too. My horses have been 80 per cent in the money. It’s been one of those magical meets. I’ve been winning the photos, the horses have been running, and I’ve been getting good rides. Everything has just fallen into place.”




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