The 15-year veteran is as passionate about the game as ever.
by James Platz
Behind every successful trainer there is a support staff that helps keep the machine moving forward. For Don Eash and Eash Racing Stable, one of the cogs in the machine is Gerald Miller. Miller, now a 15-year veteran of the stable, is enjoying harness racing just as much now as when he first hired on.
When Miller first joined Eash Racing Stable, he did so with the idea he would only stay for a season or two. At the age of 14, he had gotten his start in pony racing, working in a stable that had 80 head. By age 16, he spent the summer in the employ of his uncle, Dan Lehman, who also raced Trottingbred ponies. When Eash moved his racing operations from northern Indiana to Greenfield in order to be centrally located between Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and the former Indiana Downs, Miller approached him about a job.
“I had a friend that worked for him. He was making the shift from Goshen, and I think I only met him once,” Miller said. “I enjoyed pony racing a lot, and I felt like I learned a lot. It was different coming into harness racing.”
Whereas pony racing was a pleasure pursuit that required a full-time job, harness racing was an endeavor where a family could make a living. Pony racing was all-out and more aggressive. Harness racing offered the thrill of competition, but a trainer worked to manage a horse’s career long term. Miller happily gave up a factory job and racing on weekends to be a part of something bigger. At Eash Racing Stable, he got a chance to work with many different horses, helping develop the next wave of trotters and pacers at the farm each year.
“I just kind of stuck around,” Miller said of that initial plan to leave after a couple of years. “It’s a great job, and Don and Rosie are great people to work for.”
When Indiana’s fair circuit is in full swing, you can find Miller at most stops, assisting with the multitude of horses Eash campaigns. Dressed in colors that represent the red and black worn by his uncle, he is involved in all aspects, including driving some of the farm entries at times. Eash Racing Stable is a perennial powerhouse on the fair circuit, with the trainer regularly leading all drivers and trainers in wins. Miller enjoys the fairs because it gives him a chance to work with the stable’s young horses.
“I love to go to the fairs. I love to see the horses develop at the fairs,” he said. “I’ve always liked to work with young horses, I just enjoy going from not being broke to becoming racehorses. Sometimes you get tired of late nights and road trips, but then you see a young horse coming along and it keeps your faith alive.”
For Eash, having an employee with Miller’s tenure provides many benefits. The veteran trainer says he is hard working, sensible and responsible, all important qualities. It also helps that they have the same personality and approach to racing.
“He’s great with horses. Either you’re a horseman or you’re not,” Eash said. “We get along well. He knows the horses and he knows how I like to race them.”
Eash Racing Stable has had a fair number of top mares over the years, many of which remained at the farm as broodmares once their racing careers were complete. As a result, Miller has worked with multiple generations, and at times, it’s not easy to keep them separate.
“Sometimes you take care of the daughter of a mare and they have the same mannerisms,” he offered. “You can make the mistake of calling them by their mom’s name. It’s like you have a flashback. Don and I do it all the time.”
In 15 years with the stable, Miller has witnessed some top-level racing talent developed at the farm. The most notable of them all is the highly-accomplished pacer Foxy Maneuver. Racing from 2001 through the 2007 season, the Armbro Maneuver gelding was an Indiana Sires Stakes champion that won 51 times over seven seasons. He finished his career with $878,875 in earnings.
“I’ll always remember getting to qualify him at Balmoral,” Miller said. “He’s the kind of animal that you get once in a lifetime.”
Miller likes to drive Eash Racing Stable entries, and he’s getting increasingly more chances to do so. In 2016 and 2017 he logged triple-digit starts for the first time. This season he has a second-place effort in seven starts. Eash could use catch drivers, but Miller possesses all the background on each horse in the barn. That helps when you have developing horses that are still learning how to race. He’s also accountable for his actions on the track.
“He’s just as capable as most drivers,” the trainer said. “He has to report to me again in the morning, too.”
Now 35 – he’ll turn 36 next month – Miller is balancing racing with family life. With a six-year-old son and twin 10-month-old boys at home, his wife, Brooke, is supportive of racing and the sometimes long days it creates. At one time he would spend most nights racing. Miller appreciates being able to race in the mornings at the fairs and make it home in the evenings.
“Being home at night means a lot more than it used to,” he said. “We have a good team, so I don’t have to be at the track all the time. I’ve been able to cut down to two or three nights a week.”
When Miller first signed on with Eash Racing Stable, his intent was a short stay before moving on to bigger things. A decade and a half later, he has found happiness, contentment, and his livelihood in harness racing. And the stable found a dedicated employee that cares for each horse as it if were his own.