“I’m definitely excited about it. When I get excited, I tend to get irritable. I’m irritable as all get out right now,” Miller said with a laugh. “I only have two racehorses, so this is a bit of a new experience.”
The son of ABC Garland won seven of nine starts as a freshman for trainer Joe Putnam, sweeping both Indiana Sire Stakes finals while banking $119,500 in earnings. During the winter, Putnam and Miller decided to pick three races outside the state program to which they would stake ABC Mercedes, nicknamed “Duke” around the barn. The World Trotting Derby was at the top of the list.
“I talked to Joe about it. We didn’t know how much of a colt we had, but we didn’t race him hard as a two year old,” Miller explained. “He was training well at the time.”
Unsure of how he would come back at three, the two didn’t have to wait long to find out. ABC Mercedes easily won his qualifier in April for Putnam. Before the gelding could make his first pari-mutuel start, Putnam went down in a racing accident that continues to keep him on the sidelines.
Enter Mark O’Mara. The veteran trainer and catch-driver took over driving duties, steering ABC Mercedes to eight wins in as many starts. In their last outing, a $12,000 ISS contest Friday night, Aug. 22, at Indiana Downs, the duo crushed the field by eight lengths in 1:54.4.
“He’s been at the top of his game all year,” O’Mara commented. “There’s not a time he hasn’t been.”
While Miller has never started a horse at Du Quoin, O’Mara has valuable experience at the famed venue. He won the World Trotting Derby filly division in 1998 with Lassie’s Goal, and is equally excited about the prospects of guiding ABC Mercedes against the likes of potential entrant and Hambletonian winner Deweycheatumnhowe, as well as other top trotters. Putnam has also driven in the filly division, but ABC Mercedes will be his first entry as a trainer.
“I think the colt definitely deserves a shot. Two starts back he set the track record at Indiana Downs in 1:54.2,” Putnam offered. “We haven’t faced this caliber of horse, but he’s been trotting pretty good miles and doing it all by himself. He’s as sharp as he could be right now.”
Miller said he’s never had a horse go for the kind of money that will be offered at Du Quoin. He has also never received the kind of offers for Duke that continue to stream in. One night after the gelding’s latest victory, Miller turned down yet another offer.
“It’s unbelievable what I’m being offered for him,” he explained. “If I were 40 and had a farm payment and kids, I might think about it. But I’m really attached to the horse.”
ABC Mercedes will miss a start in Indiana Sire Stakes, but it’s of no concern to Miller. He is well aware that he may not get this opportunity again. Miller hopes that his small stable can make a big splash in