The Millers make a formidable Hambletonian team | Dave Landry

Is nine a lucky number?

August 4, 2017

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Julie and Andy Miller are about to find out Saturday when favored Devious Man goes to post in the Hambletonian and Overdraft Volo starts in the Hambletonian Oaks — both from post nine.

by Chris Lomon

Over an 18-race career that has produced 11 wins and over $750,000 in earnings, Devious Man has never left the gate from the nine spot.

Until now, that is.

Campaigned by the wife-and-husband team of trainer Julie Miller and driver Andy Miller, Devious Man is the 5-2 morning line favorite in Saturday’s 10-horse Hambletonian division elimination.

On Tuesday, the four-time winner from six races this year (who hasn’t finished lower than second) drew post nine for the race.

“Andy has a September birthday, so maybe that is a good sign,” said Julie. “We were watching the live stream of the draw and when you hear your horse’s name, it is what it is. Those are the things you can’t control. I was glad that there were only two divisions. It takes a little stress off being top five, versus being top three or top two. With Walner being out, a lot of people were contemplating putting their hat in the ring. Having two divisions…I was glad to see that, especially after we drew the nine-hole.”

Devious Man’s scores include the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on July 1 and the Empire Breeders Championship on June 18 at Vernon Downs.

Owned by the Andy Miller Stable and Stroy Inc., Devious Man, a son of Credit Winner out of Miss Garland that is a half-brother to 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo, comes into the Hambletonian off a runner-up effort to Walner in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial.

“You’re not supposed to have favorites,” said Julie. “I’m supposed to treat everyone equally, but it’s hard to with him. I qualified him his first start at Gaitway (Farm). He’s always had that cool, great personality you gravitate towards. He has a presence in the barn. If I’m just walking by with my coffee doing my rounds, I better make sure I say hello. He commands an audience.

“I’m really happy with him. We trained him on Saturday and he was really good. The biggest thing for myself is not to overthink it. Treat him like you always treat him. I don’t think he knows right now the difference between a New York-sired stake or the Hambletonian. I just try to prepare him the same way.”

The same approach applies for Overdraft Volo, who’ll contest the Hambletonian Oaks.

No need to guess where the daughter of Yankee Glide will leave from in the $500,000 event.

The Pinske Stables and Kentuckiana Racing Stable trotting miss, who won a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial, has had just one experience from post nine over her 16-race career.

And what an experience it turned out to be.

With David Miller at the controls, Overdraft Volo pulled off a major upset in last year’s Kindergarten Classic two-year-old filly trot.

The bay rallied to notch a 1 ¼-length victory, paying $34.80 for the win.

“That was my first thought when they did the draw for the Oaks,” said Julie, in referencing post nine. “Actually, when the owners and I were messaging one another, that’s what we talked about, the Kindergarten win. That’s the first thing we all mentioned. It wasn’t a deterrent then and hopefully, it won’t be this time.”

A lifetime winner of six races, accompanied by four seconds and a trio of thirds, Overdraft Volo finished fourth (1:52.4) in her Oaks elim on July 29.

“Trotting fillies – you can get a wide range of personalities,” said Julie. “And she’s just a sweetheart, on and off the racetrack. She’s a nice, big filly, but she’s easy on herself. She’s really a versatile horse. Whatever Andy decides to do that day, whether they leave or try to work out a trip, she’s really manageable.”

With two big races just around the corner, the Millers are taking it all in stride.

“I’m not anxious, I’m eager,” said Julie with a laugh. “I’m looking forward to it. What a great opportunity we have this weekend. I just try to focus on staying positive and ensuring that my horses are the best they can be that day. All of those variables I can’t control, I try to put out of my mind – what the draw is, if it’s raining or windy that day. I can’t do that to myself.”

Which is why a little R&R is the perfect tonic for the couple heading into Hambletonian day.

“It’s funny because Andy and I are obviously together a lot for work,” said Julie. “In the summer time, especially, if he can get a round of golf in, it’s kind of like he got turned out for the afternoon. He really enjoys golf and he has a nice group of friends he can do that with. That’s his relaxing time away from thinking about the horses.

“I’m different. I like going to yoga. I think that really helps keep me grounded. But we actually do things separately to get re-centered on the task at hand.”

So, while Andy is taking his best swing at draining a few birdies on the front and back nine, Julie will focus on the number nine during her yoga sessions.

“Exactly,” she said. “That will definitely be a thought that comes to mind.”

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