04/14/2016 3:24PM

Meadowlands: Miller, Shake It Cerry fresh and ready

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Derick Giwner
Shake It Cerry lined up behind the gate with David Miller last Saturday (April 9) at The Meadowlands.

Harness racing driver David Miller returned recently from his winter break feeling refreshed and ready to go. He hopes the same is true for Shake It Cerry as she prepares for her seasonal debut Friday night at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Shake It Cerry, a 5-year-old female trotter who was the Dan Patch Award divisional champion at ages 2 and 3, as well as Trotter of the Year at 3, returns from her winter layoff in the $25,000 Open Handicap at the Big M. The seven-horse field includes 5-year-old gelding JL Cruze, who was last year’s Dan Patch Award honoree for best older male trotter.

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JL Cruze, who is 2-for-2 this year, will start from post seven with John Campbell driving for trainer Eric Ell and is the 9-5 morning line favorite. Shake It Cerry, who leaves from post six with Miller at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter, is the 5-2 second choice.

Shake It Cerry heads to her debut off a 1:55 qualifier win on April 9 at the Meadowlands. She finished three-quarters of a length ahead of multiple-stakes-winner Crazy Wow and a length in front of Bee A Magician, who was last year’s Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter and the 2013 Horse of the Year.

“She qualified really good,” Miller said. “She seems sharp and in great shape. It’s her first start, so we’ll have to see. But I think she will have a good year. The way she looks right now and the way she qualified, I wouldn’t see why not.”

For her career, Shake It Cerry --- a homebred daughter of stallion Donato Hanover out of the mare Solveig --- has won 28 of 44 races and hit the board a total of 37 times. She has earned $2.48 million for Solveig’s Racing Partners, a Christina Takter-led ownership group that includes all the breeders of Shake It Cerry (under the name Solveig’s Breeders).

Shake It Cerry’s victories include two editions of the Breeders Crown, Kentucky Filly Futurity, Goldsmith Maid, Elegantimage, and Merrie Annabelle. Last year, she won five of 16 races and earned $423,155, which was first among 4-year-old female trotters and third among all 4-year-old trotters in North America.

Miller started driving Shake It Cerry at the end of last year. He was 2-for-2 with her, including a victory in the $200,000 TVG Mares Trotting Championship on Nov. 20 at the Meadowlands. Miller previously was the driver of Swedish star D’One, winning the Breeders Crown (where Shake It Cerry finished second) and Allerage Mare Trot before the mare returned to Europe.

“D’One went back home, so that was good timing there,” Miller said about landing behind Shake It Cerry. “Jimmy put me on her and I was happy to get her, believe me. What I like about her is she’s a very classy horse. She’s a real professional. She knows what she’s doing out there. You have to appreciate ones like that.”

The New Jersey-based Miller, who was named 2015 Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, spent much of the winter in Florida before returning to action in the Northeast in mid-March. Miller, who ranks No. 3 in harness racing history in purses with $199.5 million and No. 6 in wins with 11,661, has driven in at least 2,328 races each year since 1995.

“I hadn’t had a break for a long, long time,” said Miller, who was voted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2013. “I’ve raced year-round since like 1987. The winters get long. It was nice to get away. It was a good move; I enjoyed it. I just got away from the racing for a little bit. I took my own horses down (to Florida) and worked with them, which I enjoy doing.

“I came back feeling good and it wasn’t tough to get going again. I’ve been doing this my whole life, so it was fine. I’m getting back in the groove. It’s time to get back to work.”

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com