“Fun,” Miller said, laughing. “It’s just fun. That’s the only way to describe it.”
The 22-year-old Miller, who is the son of trainer Erv Miller and nephew of driver Andy Miller, entered Tuesday with 458 wins and $2.72 million in purses this season. Both are career highs for Miller, who is in only his third year as a fulltime driver. His victory total ranks seventh among all drivers in North America.
Miller is the leading driver at Balmoral Park, where he holds a 90-win advantage over second-place Brian Carpenter, and at Maywood, where he leads by 71 victories over Carpenter.
Earlier this year, he also won the driving title at Springfield.
He finished second in the standings at all three tracks last season.
“It was definitely a goal to try to win this year,” Miller said. “My dad had a few more horses here than last year and I had a lot of big accounts. If nothing else, I wanted to have a run at it.
“Things were a little slow in January and February, but right around March I started winning a lot of races. I’ve been able to do well and I ended up kind of drawing away. It’s just been a real consistent year.”
Among Miller’s highlights so far this year were winning American-National stakes with pacer Crime Of Passion and trotter GJ Photo Victory, the $184,000 Orange & Blue for state-bred 2-year-old filly pacers with MJ’s Bid and the $130,000 Maywood Pace for state-bred 3-year-old male pacers with A Cool Card. He also drove his first sub-1:49 winner in October when he captured an Invitational handicap in 1:48.4 with Fools Gold, trained by Nelson Willis, at Balmoral.
|Balmoral Park photos|
|Crime Of Passion was a 1:54.3 winner for Marcus Miller in the American-National for freshman pacing males.|
“I try to learn something from every race, no matter what,” Miller said. “I just want to continue to get better. Confidence is huge. That’s an enormous part. Just seeing the numbers, I think that adds to the confidence. I think your horses know when you’re confident, and trainers can see that. They want the guy that’s winning. It’s a snowball effect.
“When you’re doing well, it makes it easier to keep doing well.”
On Friday night at Maywood, Miller will have a chance to add to his resume. He will drive Dutch Richman in the $175,000 Windy City Pace for 3-year-olds, Crime Of Passion in the $127,800 Abe Lincoln for 2-year-old pacers and The Evictor in a $50,500 division of the Galt Stakes for 3-year-old trotters.
Crime Of Passion will start from the second tier, in post 11.
“That will be an interesting race because they only start eight across (the first tier),” Miller said. “I think there was a race last year or the year before where I won from the 10 hole. Who knows how that will work out.
“I think The Evictor is as live as any of them I’ve got, but he drew the seven hole, so I’ll have to work that one out too,” he added. “He’s a very nice horse and good trotters are fun to drive.”
Miller is among a group of successful young drivers -- along with the likes of Matt Kakaley, Doug McNair, Jordan Stratton, Montrell Teague, Trace Tetrick and Scott Zeron -- who are under the age of 26. Among that group, Zeron leads with 494 wins this year and Kakaley has 411.
“I think it’s really cool that there are a lot of young drivers doing really well,” Miller said. “I know a lot of them and it’s exciting. It’s the future. Of course, I want to keep pace or do better than those guys, if I can.”
As for his future, Miller plans to stay in Chicago through the winter.
“Hopefully, we get slots in Chicago and this is one of the better places to race, but that’s still up in the air and I’m not overly optimistic about it,” Miller said. “But that would be awesome, to say the least.
“I’m just playing it by ear. I’m definitely going to finish the winter here and then maybe decide what to do from there in the spring. I feel like I’ve got plenty of time.”