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Hannah Miller romps in Billings Gold Cup; Joe Lee wins Silver Cup
Sunday, November 20, 2016 - by C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series Publicity Office

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Chester, PA --- On a Sunday afternoon (Nov. 20) when the wind howled down the Delaware River and was a stretch obstacle at Harrah’s Philadelphia, it seems only appropriate that “Hurricane” Hannah Miller blew into town. The 2015 Amateur Driver of the Year won the 2016 $25,000 C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series Gold Cup with Jacks To Open by 8-1/2 lengths in 1:58.2.

 
World Wide Racing Photos
Hannah Miller and Jacks To Open redeemed a costly break in 2015 to win this year's edition of the $25,000 C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series Gold Cup at Harrah's Philadelphia.

One of the few disappointments of Miller's 2015 campaign was racing Jacks To Open as the favorite in the Gold Cup and the trotter, unfortunately, making a break.

This year, with Jacks To Open again the favorite, Miller made sure there would be no missed opportunity, leaving and tucking third, then pulling before the :29 quarter to challenge frontstepping Keystone Thomas.

“Thomas” and driver Bob Hechkoff were not willing to surrender the lead easily, though. Jacks To Open and Miller were left out with the chilly air blowing into their faces to the :59.1 half-mile. It then aided them as they made the lead in 1:28.1 by the three-quarter pole.

Through the last quarter-mile there was no question who was going to be in the winner's circle, as Jacks To Open drew off to win by daylight, with pocketsitting Celebrity Stimulus (David Glasser) just getting up for second, a half-length ahead of Keystone Thomas.

“He trained well this week, and he was pulling a bit, and I was not sitting in,” Miller noted, the relief visible that last year’s race was finally exorcized. “The other horse and driver didn’t want to let me go, but I thought my horse could overcome being parked, so we went up to challenge,”

Miller co-owns the winner of over $250,000 with the horse’s trainer Nick Surick. She is matching her sterling statistics of 2015 again this year, having achieved 32 wins and a .418 UDR last year, and 30 wins and a .415 average this season. She has added getting a trainer’s license to her resume this year.

“Yankee” Joe Lee, who works in clubhouse management for the Bronx baseball dynasty, worked out a perfect pocket trip with the 12-year-old gelding Captain Primeau. The pair came up the inside to pass frontstepping Star Studded Cast and win by a length in the $15,000 Billings Silver Cup.

The “Captain” left well enough to sit in the pocket behind the “Star” and a parked Rocket Master as the latter two dueled through fractions of :28.3, :59, and 1:27.3, with the threesome leaving the rest of the field far behind.

Captain Primeau then trotted through the wind, took over in midstretch, and finished the mile in 1:59.1, with Star Studded Cast (Tony Ciuffetelli) holding very gamely for second and Rocket Master (Dein Spriggs) showing his grittiness in holding for third despite the overland route.

Lee, who has the familiar intertwined “N” and “Y” of the Yankees on his driving helmet, wasn’t sure his veteran horse, who had raced and won just two days ago at Freehold, could leave enough for top position.

“But he did, and it was a great trip behind the two up front," he said. "I knew I had horse turning for home and he was able to go past.”

The horse is trained by Connie Svensson and co-owned with Anneli Svensson.

Lee won’t have time to rest on his laurels, though as he and Spriggs have horses in an amateur race at Pompano tonight.

He now has 20 career driving victories, with half of them coming during the current year, which is his best, as his horses have earned over $133,000.

Captain Primeau posted his 41st lifetime triumph with the Silver Cup win and now has a bankroll nearing $375,000 which is the perfect blend of youth and experience.


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