Hannah Miller: driver/trainer/veterinarian specialist

by Victoria M. Howard

The name Miller is a common one in harness racing. When one hears it, they usually think of David Miller — the “Buckeye” from Ohio who is one of the sport’s top drivers, or Erv Miller from Illinois — a trainer who conditioned great horses such as Manofmanymissions, Incredible Tillie, Loyal Opposition and Classic Photo.

Even Erv’s son, Marcus, has made a name for himself as an up-and-coming star driver, so when Erv’s daughter, Hannah, took amateur racing by storm, it was not surprising. Hannah’s first year in the bike was not easy for she raced against male counterparts, but that didn’t scare the 27-year-old blonde. She won 32 races, finished with a .425 UDR in 118 drives, and was named “National Amateur Driver of the Year.” (She was the first woman to win this award.)

Hannah also dominated the C.K.G. Billings Series where she won the East Regional final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun in Poconos.

This ambitious, hard-working and beautiful young lady grew up around horses and started helping her dad at the barn when she was quite young.

“When I was 15 my dad purchased a yearling for me. It was the perfect way for me to learn the business alongside a young horse learning everything for the first time. I cleaned stalls and groomed for several summers in high school before I ever went to the racetrack. At first I didn’t want to go on the track because I loved being close to the horses and having that one-on-one relationship with them.

“One day dad came to me and asked if I wanted to drive in an amateur race. I wasn’t sure I was ready to drive, but dad thought I was and insisted. I drove my first horse in 2012 at my home track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and finished second. Two weeks later, I drove again at the World Cup of Amateur Racing that same year.

“My boyfriend at the time, Nick Surick, helped me find some older trotters to buy and we quickly became involved in amateur racing. I own several horses now, but not quite as many as I have in the past. I have a couple older trotters and a 3-year-old pacing filly that I’m looking forward to racing this upcoming season.

“It’s a family business. Even my mom is involved where she does a lot of behind the scenes work. She does the bookkeeping, day-to-day tasks and is the backbone of it all. She has been so supportive of both my brother and I driving, and has traveled overseas with me to watch me compete.”

A new opportunity recently presented itself to Hannah, which is horse related, but in a different aspect.

“About a year ago I started working in the animal health side of the industry as an Equine Specialist Territory Manager for Kinetic Vet. I have learned so much, enjoy working with veterinarians, and seeing the business side of things, which is giving me a chance to use the bachelor’s degree I worked hard for in college. This past year has been a huge transition with Kinetic Vet. I plan on taking this experience and applying it to harness racing.

“I recently attended the inaugural Equestrian Business Women Summit in Florida and had the opportunity to meet so many women from all walks of life. They all have a passion for horses, in one way or another. It was a chance to listen to inspiring women tell stories about their struggles and successes and to discuss new ways to grow brands.

“I believe that collaborating like this is what the future depends on in a world that is so cut throat, for it’s important to have a sense of community. I think in the future of harness racing we will see overall less races, but this will lead to higher purses and even more competitive races. I think the ‘best of the best’ will have to come out to compete, which includes not only horses, but drivers and trainers as well.

“As far as giving advice to young women who want to drive racehorses, I say to them, ‘Sit behind horses as much as they can. The more experience you have, the more comfortable and confident you will be.’ I’m very lucky my dad had such a large stable, for it gave me the opportunity to jog a lot of different horses.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to drive horses for it has taken me all over the world. One of my favorite times was when I competed in the World Cup of Amateur Racing in Budapest, Hungary, representing the United States. I only missed winning the World Cup by a single point. I think that experience helped to prove my ability as a driver since it was an international competition and I was still able to hold my own in such a different setting.

“As far as getting pushed around because I’m a female — I’ve been pushed around on the track as much from other female drivers as male drivers. This is a very competitive sport that people rely on to make a living, so every driver is out there to do their best and hopefully win.

“I love harness racing and it will always be a huge part of my life. I will continue owning racehorses and plan on continuing to drive, also. I see myself not only driving in amateur races, but also competing in more overnight races as well.”