In 2005 Erv Miller and Roger Hammer were on completely different sides of the racing spectrum. Miller sent out the 1-2 Hambletonian favorite that year in Classic Photo and Hammer piloted the upset race winner Vivid Photo to victory in the $1.5 million event one spot ahead of Classic Photo.
Flash forward a few years and the two have partnered on a Breeders Crown juvenile colt pace contender named Up Up And Out, one of two prime candidates that Miller and Hammer have in Crown action this weekend.
"Roger sent me Apogee Hanover last year (2011) to race in Ontario and she did very well so we decided to go in on a couple of horses," said Erv Miller in regard to the recent association.
Apogee Hanover, entered in Saturday's Breeders Crown elimination races for 3-year-old filly pacers, has earned more than $540,000 racing north of the border for Miller and sole owner Hammer. The daughter of 2005 Breeders Crown champ Jereme's Jet was a $27,000 yearling purchase at the Harrisburg auction in 2010.
For $40,000 Hammer and Miller took home Up Up And Out at Harrisburg this past fall and again it was a yearling by Jereme's Jet. "He was just a good looking colt. He had great conformation," said Miller.
"The Jereme's Jets were well received the first year but didn't really click. I think that's why this colt went a little unnoticed."
Actually those watching Up Up And Out for much of this season could have said the same thing about him, as the colt that was virtually invisible on the Ontario stakes scene until the last four to five weeks.
"He's needed time to mature," said Miller about the progress the gelding has made over the course of the campaign which included just one win (a Dream Maker preliminary) in his first seven starts and three impressive scores in his last four races. The most recent effort, an awesome eighth-to-first launch in the $130,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold final at Mohawk on Sept. 28, was confirmation that Up And Out was a real player in this division.
His final quarter of :26.2 was paced coming wide off the final turn. He completed the mile in a personal best 1:52.2.
"I don't know if he could put four quarters together like that in a race just yet, but he has a really high burst of speed," said Miller.
Up Up And Out drew the pole position for Friday's first elimination race at Woodbine (race 2) but at the same time landed in the same field with division leader Captaintreacherous.
Miller has been quite happy with the way young Doug McNair has handled the horse thus far.
"Doug's done a great job with him and he seems to know how to get the most out of the horse," said Miller.
Though this will be the first open test for Up Up And Out the circumstances could be ideal.
"I think he's heading into this race really sharp," said Miller alluding to the fact that some of the others in the field have been through some tougher races along the way and may have more wear and tear.
"We took it easy on him earlier in the year with an eye towards the late season."
Up Up And Out has a unique pedigree being from the Cambest-sired mare Mellow Out. She's a half-sister to one of the toughest Ontario-breds of alltime, Duke Of Abby, a near $1 million winner during his illustrious career that included a third place finish in the 1996 North America Cup contested at Woodbine. Another close relative to Up Up And Out is Road Machine, a $900,000-plus winner primarily in Ontario that finished third in the 1990 North America Cup.
With that kind of pedigree it's easy to see why Miller has his sights set down the road and is in his words "cautiously optimistic" about his chances over the next two weekends. Should Up Up And Out remain strong he could go in the $300,000 Ontario Sire Stakes Super Final slated for Nov. 10 at Woodbine.
With 14 entered in the 2-year-old colt pace, two seven-horse elims will go postward with the first five finishers in each elim advancing to the final. All eliminations are $25,000 (US). Elimination winners may pick their post position, drawn on Saturday night at Woodbine. (Breeders Crown)