from the U.S. Harness Writers Association
One is a native of the heartland of U.S. harness racing, the Buckeye State of Ohio. One is a Swedish emigrant who is fiercely appreciative of the opportunities his adopted United States has given him. Both are in their mid-50s. Both are members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
David Miller and Jimmy Takter were the Driver and Trainer of the Year in 2015, respectively, their outstanding seasons cemented by quantity — six Breeders Crown wins for Takter, with Miller gaining five Crown sulky triumphs, including two for Takter.
And in 2016, Takter and Miller are repeat winners in their respective categories as voted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Both again had outstanding seasons up and down the board, but their highlight this time focused on quality — 2016 Harness Horse of the Year Always B Miki, author of the sport’s fastest-ever mile, a 1:46 clocking at Lexington’s famed Red Mile on Oct. 9. Always B Miki also had four victories in head-to-head matchups against 2015 Harness Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, who had three in a months-long series of contests that had fans — and even “seen-it-all” horsemen — buzzing throughout North America.
Of course, to earn top yearly accolades over their talented peers, both men accomplished much more than their successful collaboration with Always B Miki. Takter collected year-end honors not only with Always B Miki (also the Pacer of the Year) but with a repeat champion, the 3-year-old pacing filly Pure Country, and two 2-year-old fillies, pacer Idyllic Beach and trotter Ariana G. Takter also guided Ariana G’s successful sophomore sister All The Time, and the two fillies’ combined exploits earned breeders/owners Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz honors as the season’s Breeders of the Year.
That’s four divisional winners in all — no other trainer had more than one. Add in Breeders Crown-winning Bar Hopping, often right in the mix with Trotter of the Year Marion Marauder, among others and you see a powerhouse of a stable that earned Takter Trainer of the Year plaudits for the third year in a row, and sixth overall (1996, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016).
While Takter is forthright and outfront with his opinions, David Miller, while no less insightful, by temperament would rather just go about his job quietly yet effectively — both factors showing up when he became only the third driver, behind John Campbell and Ron Pierce, to go over $200 million in career sulky earnings, as the feat came in May at Harrah’s Philadelphia with an undistinguished pacer named Hickory Chumley, who paid $82.80 to win.
In this, his best season ever for earnings with more than $12.6 million bankrolled, Miller also had a large hand in the racetrack guidance of two other divisional award-winners: 3-year-old trotting filly Broadway Donna, a repeat champion, and the multi-major stakes-winning 3-year-old pacing colt Betting Line.
This is Miller’s third Driver of the Year title: he won the inaugural award in 2003, and of course now has two straight in the category.
Jimmy Takter and David Miller (and the many horses for whom they were an integral part of the road to success in 2016) will be honored at the “Night of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday (Feb. 26) at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas.
Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, www.ushwa.org, including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.