Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing
The sheer joy of veteran Warawrup owner-trainer Daryl Miller brightened a miserable, wet and windswept Gloucester Park on Friday night as he celebrated his first metropolitan-class success in 45 years as a trainer.
The 64-year-old Miller, a salt of the earth country character, was delighted when his 27-year-old son Mitch brought $37.70 outsider Imahero home with a spirited burst to snatch a neck victory over $23 chance Valhalla Angel in the $25,000 Etch Coatings Western Crown listed classic for two-year-old fillies.
Daryl Miller admitted that over the years he had rarely had a pacer good enough to race at Gloucester Park, but such is his love of harness racing that he has never lost his enthusiasm for the sport.
His fervour, passion, undying optimism and remarkable perseverance is revealed in that he simply refused to discard any of his horses, who did the bulk of their racing on far-flung country tracks throughout the state.
Just an example of his faith and his disposition to hope for the best is aptly illustrated in the following statistical record of some of his pacers — Fair Ozzi (124 starts for no wins and 12 placings), Swift Rajah (129 starts for two wins), Lifes White Star (98 starts for two wins), Cyclone North (88 starts for three wins), Cherokee Chance (72 starts for three wins), Homebush Hero (184 starts for four wins), Gateway Express (86 starts for four wins) and Liaurie (151 starts for five wins).
Even now, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Miller, who was setting Imahero for the $50,000 group 2 APG Gold Bullion in April but had to abandon his plans when Imahero was kicked in the face by another two-year-old, leaving a gaping hole in the side of her jaw.
The Gold Bullion event attracted two runners in the qualifying heat, with Flametree leading and winning easily from Dream Control. The result of the two-horse final was the same. Third prizemoney of $3500 in the final went begging.
“Imahero is a nice horse, but I’ve had a lot of trouble with her, with problems about her getting around the Gloucester Park track,” said Miller. “Before tonight I had started her three times here, and she has broken up every time. The idea tonight was to sit back (on the pegs) and follow a helmet.”
Mitch Miller followed these instructions perfectly as he kept Imahero in fifth position, three back on the pegs, while his brother Dean set the pace with $8 chance Ekara Navajo.
The $1.50 favourite Between Two Thorns began from the outside in the field of seven, and she raced roughly out three wide early before Aiden de Campo sent her forward to race in the breeze 1050m from home.
Between Two Thorns dashed to the front with 220m to travel and looked certain to win. But she raced greenly, hung out and went roughly approaching the home turn. She lost ground and Callan Suvaljko sent Valhalla Angel to the front. Mitch Miller eased Imahero off the inside and took her three wide before she finished solidly to overhaul Valhalla Angel in the final few strides.
Mitch Miller, who was driving Imahero for the first time, said that the filly had shown glimpses of her ability but had failed to do things right in her races.
The filly’s break-through victory at tote odds of $37.70 at her eighth race start completed a purple eight-day patch for her reinsman, Long-shot Miller, who was successful at Gloucester Park the previous Friday with $39 outsider Vivere Damore before winning with $19 chance Call To Arms at Pinjarra on Monday and $61 rank outsider Go Widgie at Bunbury on Tuesday.
Daryl Miller extended the family budget when he outlaid $20,000 to buy Imahero at the 2021 APG Perth yearling sale. The filly now has earned $19,828 and is being set for upcoming feature events for two-year-olds, including the $100,000 Diamond Classic on August 19.
Imahero is by American stallion Hes Watching and is the fifth foal out of the Live Or Die mare I Am Special, who earned $74,744 from six wins and 11 placings from 46 starts, with the highlight of her career being her victory over Ruby Dazzler in the group 3 WASBA Breeders Stakes at Gloucester Park in May 2009.
“I picked her out at the sale mainly because I liked the way she looked, the way I Am Special raced and the form of her first two foals Dior Mia More (ten wins) and Girlfromdandalup (four wins),” said Daryl Miller.