09/12/2013 11:32AM

Balmoral: Miller hoping for a 'Super Night' in Illinois-bred championships

Erv Miller ranks fifth in North America in both training wins and earnings in 2013.

Although Erv Miller doesn’t live in Illinois anymore his horses keep showing up in the winner’s circle after major state-bred races at Springfield, DuQuoin and Balmoral Park.

The 46-year-old trainer, who moved his headquarters from Sherman, Illinois to Pennsylvania three years ago, might be making the Balmoral winner’s circle his home-away-from-home Saturday night when he will send out eight pacers and a trotter to compete in the 25th annual Super Night extravaganza for Illinois-breds.

There are six championship races for pacers and two for trotters, plus six consolation races for pacers.

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Miller will have nine horses going for him in seven of the championship races. Four of them won their eliminations, stretching extended winning streaks they started at the State Fairs in Du Quoin and Springfield.

A Cool Card will be in quest of his fifth consecutive conquest in race 8, the $125,000 Tony Maurello for male pacers 3-year-olds and up.

“A Cool Card has turned out to be a really nice horse as a 5-year-old,” Miller said. “He had knee issues and we stopped on him in the middle of his 3-year-old year. He had to have some knee surgery and we skipped his whole 4-year-old year. It certainly seems to have paid off.”

Seeking their fourth victory in a row will be PQ Three in the $200,000 Orange and Blue pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings (race 14); My Little Bit in the $200,000 Orange and Blue pace for 2-year-old fillies (race 6); and Mystical Walter in the $173,000 Pete Langley Memorial pace for 3-year-old males (race 12).

“They all did very well at Springfield and Du Quoin,” Miller pointed out. “PQ Three tied a seasonal record (for a 2-year-old male pacer) when he won at Springfield in 1:50.

“My Little Bit was a real immature filly and needed growing up. We got her schooled at Balmoral and taught her what to do. When we got to Springfield we raced her a little harder and she responded. She just keeps getting better and better.

“Mystical Walter was a good horse as a 2-year-old (winning three of his five races) but for awhile he was a head case off the gate—he was a little too nervous. Now, it seems like I’ve got him figured out. He’s getting a little better each time I race him.”

Miller is atop the all-time leader board in the Super Night trainer standings with 20 triumphs, seven more than Joe Anderson, who is a distant second.

Mystical Victress has been Miller’s biggest contributor in the annual main event for Illinois-breds. The 6-year-old mare was third in her elimination, bringing an end to a four-race winning streak. If she makes it back to the winner’s circle after race 4, the $130,000 Lorna Propes pace for fillies and mares, she will make Super Night history by winning a championship race for the fourth straight year.

After winning the Grandma Ann as a 3-year-old, Mystical Victress has taken the Lorna Propes (originally known as the Ann Vonian) the last two years. Only one other horse—King Johnnie from 2005-07—has won the same Super Night race three successive years. He accomplished the feat in the Tony Maurello (originally known as the Dan Patch).

According to Miller, Mystical Victress had an excuse for failing to deliver as the 1-10 favorite in the elimination.

“She had a respiratory infection,” said Miller. “We scoped her and came up with a little bit of mucus.”

Milller also will be represented by Willow Graham in the Lorna Propes. The workaholic 4-year-old has made 32 starts this year. Although she has only three victories, she frequently has finished in the money, recording seven seconds and five thirds.

Miller’s other Super Night candidates are Mystical Danica in the $174,000 Grandma Ann for 3-year-old filly pacers (race 11); M A Refling, who’ll join stablemate My Little Bit in the Orange and Blue for fillies; and Skyline Road in the $124,000 Su Mac Lad trot for 3-year-old colts and geldings (race 2).

Mystical Danica has recorded three close seconds and a victory in her last four outings; M A Refling is making only her fourth career start in the Orange and Blue for fillies; and Skyline Road was fourth in his elimination after two narrow losses to heavy favorite King Mufasa at the State Fairs.

The only Super Night championship race that Miller won’t be represented in is the $105,000 Lady Ann Reed for 3-year-old filly trotters.

It is all in the family for Miller, as his son, Marcus, is scheduled to drive A Cool Card, Badger Quinn, My Little Bit, Mystical Danica, Willow Gram and Skyline Road.

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Marcus began his driving career in Chicago at Balmoral and Maywood Park while he was a student at DePaul University, but like his father, he has relocated from Illinois to Pennsylvania.

“I sold our home in Sherman north of Springfield when I moved to Pennsylvania,” Erv Miller said. “Now, I live just south of my home base (Mohegan Sun) at Pocono and Marcus has a home in Stroudsburg. I also have a home in Florida. We have a stable branch at Indianapolis at the State Fairgrounds and we’ll ship from there to Hoosier and Balmoral. We used to be in Springfield at the Fairgrounds but there’s more going on in Indiana than Illinois and we have more Indiana-breds, so we relocated.

“Last year I bought ten 2-year-olds at the sales in Illinois and this year I bought six. I’ll probably just keep downsizing (Illinois-breds in the stable). I waited all those years thinking legislation (bringing slot machines to Illinois racetracks) was going to happen and it still hasn’t happened. It’d have to be an awfully good deal to bring me back.”

The 14-race Super Night card at Balmoral has a first race post time of 7:30 pm E.S.T. and features three guaranteed wagers - $15,000 Pick Five (race 3); $50,000 Pick Four (race 11); $25,000 Super Hi-Five (race 14).