Peter Miller won the 1,000th race of his thoroughbred training career Friday, and of course he reached the milestone of the track most dear to him: Del Mar.
“If I could pick the place to win my first two Breeders’ Cup races and my 1,000th race, this would be the spot,” a beaming Miller said after 2-year-old colt Haydens Havoc, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, won the third race for maidens over 5 furlongs on turf. “I love Del Mar. This is my home track.
“It’s a lot of wins. A lot work.”
Del Mar executives were in the winner’s circle to take photos with Miller, who also posed with a 1,000-win sign, along with his wife, Lani, and their sons, Jacob, 6, and Seth, 4.
“I told the boys if we got our 1,000th I’d buy them ice cream,” Miller said. “I’m keeping my promise.”
In the Breeders’ Cup in November 2017 at Del Mar, Miller had the biggest day of his career when his horses Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint) and Roy H (Sprint) won. They repeated that feat in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs — a first in the event’s history.
Miller, 52, who lives in Encinitas, entered the Del Mar fall meet needing four victories to reach the 1,000-win plateau. He said he wasn’t aware he was that close until Derek Lawson, the agent for jockey Flavien Prat, told him.
“I thought, ‘wow,’ ” Miller said. “I had my wife look it up, and that’s when we started to think about it.”
Miller, the Del Mar training title winner in the summer and the last two falls, won two races on opening day a week ago, but then went dry over the next seven races. He won again Thursday to leave him one shy.
Haydens Havoc is owned by Rockingham Ranch and Gary Hartunian, who Miller said has been a key to his success, along with another owner, Gary Barber.
“My thanks to them, and my staff and team,” Miller said. “It’s a team effort and I get to drive the bus.”
Miller said he won his first race in April 1987 at Santa Anita with Dynashield. He recalled the jockey Rafael Meza was sick, so he settled for a young, up-and-coming rider — future Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.
While Miller was happy about the achievement, he noted he is awed by the careers of trainers such as Steve Asmussen, who has 8,216 wins, and Jerry Hollendorfer, with 7,534.
“I’m a peanut compared to them,” Miller said. “I’ve probably had 4,000 losers to get to 1,000.”
He wasn’t far off. No. 1,000 came in Miller’s 5,439th race.