The victory by Comma to the Top in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park Dec. 18 was not only the biggest win of trainer Peter Miller's career, it also capped a remarkable meet for the 44-year-old Los Angeles native.
Miller won with 14 of 35 starters at the Autumn meet, a strike rate of .40% after a victory in the final race on an abbreviated closing day of the meet Dec. 19. He led the trainer standings in purse earnings of $662,420 and tied for second in wins with John Sadler. Miller was two victories behind the meet-leading Doug O'Neill, who had 69 more starters.
His campaign was highlighted by Comma at the Top's unprecedented sweep of the Real Quiet and Generous (gr. IIIT) stakes and the Futurity.
“The meet has been just incredible,” said Miller. “Everything has hit the board, too. My horses have been 80 per cent in the money. It’s been one of those magical meets. I’ve been winning the photos, the horses have been running, and I’ve been getting good rides. Everything has just fallen into place.”
The trainer relocated his 30-horse stable from his longtime base at San Luis Rey Downs to Hollywood Park for the first time this fall, a move that has paid big dividends.
Miller said he was still pinching himself over Comma to the Top's 1 3/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Futurity. It was the fifth consecutive win for Comma to the Top, a Florida-bred gelding by Bwana Charlie that has started 10 times in 2010.
“It’s amazing that these races don’t take much out of him,” said Miller. “He’s holding his weight well. He looks 100 per cent and ate up good last night.”
Miller said he had not yet formulated 2011 plans with co-owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara but the 2011 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is the long range goal.
The $375,000 prize Comma to the Top earned Saturday eliminated any worries about the horse having enough earnings to qualify.
“Winning this race was definitely a career highlight, and the drama made it even more special,” said Miller in reference to a 28-minute delay caused by the winner, who lost a rear shoe in the mud on the way to the paddock and needed to have it replaced.
“It was a crazy crazy day, but at the end, the best horse won,” said Miller. “We were all in the same boat.”
Miller picked the horse out of an Ocala 2-year-old sale in April from the Clyde Rice consignment and purchased him for $22,000. “I thought he would be a nice $40-50,000 claiming horse,” said Miller. “Obviously, he has surpassed that.”
Miller broke in as a groom after graduating from high school in the mid-1980’s for Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. He kiddingly called himself "The Bald Beagle," for the bald head he has in common with Whittingham, who was nicknamed "The Bald Eagle."