10/25/2007 11:00PM

Miller shoots for stakes double

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Darrin Miller is experiencing the best training year of his career in 2007, with a win by Dominican in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and a fifth-place finish from Sedgefield in the Kentucky Derby being two obvious highlights.

He isn't finished. Sunday, on opening day of the Churchill Downs fall meet, a day devoted entirely to 2-year-old racing, Miller has contenders in the day's stakes races: Sgt. Joe in the Grade 3 Iroquois and Anachini in the Grade 3 Pocahontas.

Miller is one of just four trainers with horses in both stakes Sunday. The others are Steve Asmussen, Bob Holthus, and D. Wayne Lukas.

Miller calls his entire group of 2-year-olds better than those he had last year, when Dominican and Sedgefield were juveniles in his barn. The reason, he said, reflects a change of strategy from his owners, Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton of Silverton Hill Farm, for whom Miller trains privately.

"We spent a little more money, did a little more homework," he said Friday. "We reached and it is paying off."

Sgt. Joe has shown blazing speed in his two starts, setting the pace in his Sept. 14 debut at Turfway before fading to second, and then returning Oct. 7 at Keeneland. He opened up a six-length lead in midstretch and lasted for a 2o1/2-length victory over next-out winner Racecard Rhapsody.

"He has a lot of raw talent," Miller said. "He's a very impressive, very fast colt."

Whether he can control his speed and stretch out to the Iroquois at a mile is uncertain, but Miller said he feels now is the time to try with a 2-year-old.

Miller recalled a conversation about Sgt. Joe's maiden win with jockey Rafael Bejarano, who told him, "Once he was clear, he was relaxed," Miller said. "He didn't abuse him finishing - left something to work with there."

As for Anachini, she acts like a filly crying out for the mile distance of the Pocahontas. She closed for third first time out at Saratoga behind subsequent Frizette winner Indian Blessing, and returned to win a maiden race from off the pace at Keeneland on Oct. 12. She ran quickly, covering 6 1/2 furlongs over the Polytrack in 1:15.86.

"She has always shown a lot of talent, which is why I hauled her up to New York to make her first start," said Miller.

If they run to their ability, either could prove a factor Sunday. In which case, Miller's career-best year in 2007 - in which his horses have earned more than $1.14 million - might only get better.

Desormeaux becomes a Kentucky regular

There will be a new guy in the jocks' room at Churchill this fall - well, at least in the sense of being new to the everyday scene to Churchill Downs. He is none other than Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who will ride a full meet here first the first time at Churchill Downs this fall.

Desormeaux, 37, a three-time Eclipse Award-winning rider, knows his way around the racetrack, having ridden two horses to victory in Kentucky Derby - Real Quiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Desormeaux, who shifted his base to New York from Southern California this year and narrowly missed winning the riding title at Saratoga, where he was edged 44-43 by Cornelio Velasquez, will miss Sunday's opening-day card but is expected to ride the remainder of the meet.

"Many of clients that I have gained in New York are going to be there at Churchill Downs for the fall meet - it's kind of a 'pit stop' on their way to Gulfstream Park," he said.

Desormeaux has ridden often for trainer Bill Mott in New York since the summer, and is expected to ride for him in Kentucky. Trainer Ken McPeek has also used Desormeaux with effectiveness.

"It would be special to add a meet riding title at Churchill Downs to the things that I have accomplished, and I'm looking forward to attempting that," Desormeaux said.

The trainers' race similarly promises to be competitive, with Mott, Dale Romans, and Asmussen among several with the strength and numbers in their stables to contend for the title.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey - who have collected a record 10 leading owner titles at Churchill Downs, including nine straight between the spring 2000 and spring 2004 meets - have reloaded their stable prior to the meet. Through Thursday, the Ramseys had claimed 10 horses across the country in October, with seven of those claims being made at Keeneland by trainer Mike Maker.