Advertisement
Share

Horse trainer Peter Miller goes on hiatus after rash of thoroughbred deaths

Horse trainer Peter Miller.
Horse trainer Peter Miller looks on from the stables at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., in May 2019.
(Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

Trainer Peter Miller, who has won the Del Mar training title nine times, announced on Thursday that he is stepping back from racing “to spend more time with his family, focus on overall health and wellness, and pursue other interests.”

The move comes as Miller has been at the center of the conversation on horse safety after six of his horses have died since Dec. 27. The next highest California trainer has three fatalities.

“I know that there may be some speculation related to this decision, however, I want to make it very clear that it is not a result of any regulatory action, secret agreement or hidden agenda of any kind,” Miller said. “This is strictly a personal decision.”

Advertisement

Miller’s name was brought up at Wednesday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting by animal rights’ activists as someone who should be scrutinized for his high number of deaths. On Oct. 26, PETA wrote a letter to CHRB members asking that Miller’s license be suspended.

Knicks Go defeated 3-year-old race favorites Medina Sprit, Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

Six is a familiar number in that it was after the sixth fatality in a similar period of time that Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from running at Stronach tracks Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. That case is currently being litigated in Los Angeles Superior Court. Hollendorfer was originally denied racing privileges at Del Mar, but a court order overturned that decision.

Miller, 55, has been training in Southern California since 1988 when he won his first race at Santa Anita. He has won five Breeders’ Cup races during that time and had two Kentucky Derby starters. He has won 1,332 races and $68,895,415 in purses. Among his more notable horses have been Roy H, Stormy Liberal, Belvoir Bay, Comma to the Top, CZ Rocket and Mo Forza.

But it was at Del Mar where he achieved his greatest success, where he won his first training title in 2014. On Oct. 2, the day after Miller had his fifth fatality, Del Mar sent out a tweet wishing Miller a happy birthday.

Miller said that this is a “temporary hiatus” but did not indicate how long he would be away from racing. His longtime assistant Ruben Alvarado will be taking over his large stable.

“Managing a large stable is a 24-hour, 365-day endeavor,” Miller said. “The effort to compete at the highest level of my profession has taken its toll on my family and my health and I believe this decision is best for me, my family and our future.”

Miller’s hiatus will start on Nov. 29, the day after the end of the Fall Del Mar meeting.

Miller trains at San Luis Rey Downs, a facility owned by The Stronach Group, just north of Del Mar in San Diego County. Four of his fatalities have occurred during that period at the training facility, three by musculoskeletal injuries, known as breakdowns, and the other by what is believed to be a sudden death hemorrhage. The other deaths were racing related and said to be musculoskeletal.


Advertisement