09/24/2008 12:00AM

Two bombs for Mountaineer bug boy


Teenage apprentice rider Arizona Miller has provided a couple of gigantic payoffs to longshot players this month at Mountaineer Racetrack.

Miller, 16, is only 3 for his first 58 through Tuesday night, but still sports a profitable $3.31 return on investment, thanks to Brick Party ($80.40) - his first career winner three weeks ago - and Luvthatbilly ($91.40), who scored last Friday night.

All three of Miller's winners have been for trainer Alan Crago.

Miller is a junior at Beaver High School in Columbiana County, Ohio, a few miles across the border from Mountaineer's location in Chester, W.Va. He said winning the 112-pound weight class in last year's Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestling tournament didn't come close to the thrill he experienced riding $5,000 claimer Brick Party to his first professional victory in Mountaineer's seventh race on Sept. 2.

"It was awesome," Miller said. "I couldn't quit grinning, my cheeks were stretched so tight."

Miller explained that his unusual first name stems from a horse named Arizona that "made a lot of money for my family" during the days when his grandfather Herman Miller owned and trained horses at Mountaineer.

Because Mountaineer races Friday through Tuesday nights, Miller doesn't have to miss school to ride. In order to avoid working too late when there is school the next day, his mounts often are booked for early on the cards, which start at 7 p.m.

The importance of finishing his education has been reinforced by his agent, Jimmy Isabel, who has told Miller he will only continue to represent him as long as he stays in school.

Miller is saving his winnings and planning for his future. At 5 feet, 9 inches, his days as a jockey may be limited as he matures and fills out. He's looking toward college and perhaps a career as a trainer, or even in racetrack management.