Venerate made an immediate impression on his connections
story by John Sacco
While it was not exactly love at first sight, there was an attraction.
“What I liked about him and what caught my eye was when I saw his presence,” said Julie Miller, Venerate’s trainer. “He looked athletic and strong: a good-looking animal.
“I try not to put those benchmarks or expectations on a horse. We felt we had a nice horse. But you never really know. Venerate acted out a couple times, like a typical boy, but in the back of my mind, [I thought] we had a top horse in him.”
Miller’s husband, Andy, purchased the 2020 Dan Patch 2-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year in conjunction with Pinske Stables at the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $90,000. Julie handles the horse’s training routine while Andy holds the lines.
Venerate is a son of the French sire Love You and the Muscle Hill mare Peaceful Kemp. His dam is a full sister to 2014 Hambletonian winner Trixton and half-sister to 2010 Breeders Crown winner Impressive Kemp. He is the first foal out of his dam.
The colt made his pari-mutuel debut on July 17 at The Meadowlands with a win in a $10,000 conditioned event for 2-year-olds. He was then third in his $20,000 elimination for the Peter Haughton Memorial over the same oval on July 31 prior to coming home third in the $319,000 final the following week.
Venerate then traveled to the Bluegrass State for Kentucky Sire Stakes competition and returned to the winner’s circle in the first $40,000 leg of the series on Aug. 24 at Red Mile. His next start was in the same company and for the same purse on Sept. 6 and was the only time the colt finished off the board, as he broke shortly after leaving the gate.
Venerate, however, rebounded in a big way with a facile 1:51.4 performance to capture the $250,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes final on Sept. 20.
“That win was really special,” Miller said.
The inaugural Mohawk Million was the next performance on Venerate’s agenda and the colt did not disappoint by handing the talented filly, Donna Soprano, her first loss with the eventual Breeders Crown winner, On A Streak, in third.
Andrew McCarthy took the reins for Andy Miller due to travel issues stemming from the pandemic and the colt raced from the slot Brad Grant, Marvin Katz and other partners had purchased after an arrangement was negotiated privately.
Venerate got away eighth but was able to follow the favorite, Donna Soprano, until the filly took the lead at the top of the stretch. Venerate was then in third and eventually muscled past his rival to stop the clock in 1:53.2.
“I was hoping I’d get out of there a little closer, but after scoring him down I knew I couldn’t make him accelerate too fast, so I just wanted to get out of there upright,” McCarthy said after the race. “He’s a very strong horse. I didn’t really care how far back I got, just figured I’d have to get through that first turn and then worry about where I’m going from there.
“The speed was pretty tough early, so it worked out where I could end up getting a pretty good trip, but when I looked up at the eighth-pole I was a long away back. I’m so thankful for Andy and Julie and Pinske Stable. And to Brad (Grant) for deciding to use me on this horse. I’m so thankful.”
The colt next appeared at Red Mile on Oct. 9 in an $85,600 division of the International Stallion Stake. Venerate went off stride at the three-quarter pole and finished fourth to the gifted Southwind Tyrion.
It was then on to Harrah’s Hoosier Park to contest the Breeders Crown. In Venerate’s $25,000 elimination on Oct. 23, the colt demolished his competition as he rolled to a 1:52.2 victory. It was a new track record for 2-year-old trotting colts and Venerate handed Captain Corey his first loss after that rival lost a boot on the way to the wire.
“If he minds his manners and stays focused, that’s the kind of performance we thought he could put in,” Miller said after the race.
All eyes were on Venerate in the $600,000 final seven days later, but a victory was not meant to be. The colt raced admirably though and came home third after a trip with some obstacles the winner, On A Streak, and second-place finisher In Range did not face.
“Obviously, you need some racing luck, and you don’t want anything bad to happen,” Andy Miller said. “With the talent he has, we don’t need a mishap. Venerate is a very talented horse. Hopefully, the sky is the limit.”
The colt ended the season with a record of 10-5-0-3 and $772,914 in purse money.
So, when did Julie Miller know her original instincts about Venerate’s ability were on point?
“Personally, when I got to train behind him,” she said. “The first time I asked him to go, he just went. Right then, I thought to myself we had something special.”
Andy admits Venerate needed some work and experience to blossom.
“He was a little green at the beginning,” he said. “I was a little careful leaving with him. He’s matured a lot and we hope he matures more. He has lots of go and he uses it at the right time. We kind of knew before we ever qualified him that he was different. He’s had some issues. We’ve gone above and beyond and had the feeling he’d be pretty special.”
Venerate spent his winter at Southern Oaks Training Center in Sorrento, Fla., with co-owner Carter Pinske, whose family operates the facility. He has received plenty of visits from the Millers.
“I was pleased with the year,” Pinske said. “He’s always had talent and he’s a great big horse with a ton of muscles to build on. He’s really filled out. He’s full in the chest. He looks like a man this year, not a boy.”
Pinske said the plan is for Venerate to lose his hobbles in 2021 and for him to start racing between May 20 and June 2.
“You always hope for great performances and victories,” he said. “But I don’t like to jinx myself. Last year, we thought he could be competitive at the stakes level and he was.
“He has power and speed. When you have a driver like Andy Miller, you have a chance in each race. He’s aggressive and Venerate has the sheer power and flat-out speed. When you sit behind him, he feels like a pacer.
“Venerate loves it. He wants to race horses next to him.”
“I’m really happy with him,” Julie said. “We took him to Lexington and it’s a little different there, and he was flawless in the Breeders Crown elimination. We were tickled pink for him to win that. All of us have confidence in him and know he can do big things.
“He is big and full of himself. He’s a smart horse. I think the sky is the limit for him as a 3-year-old.” HB
John Sacco is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania. To comment on this story, email us at email@example.com.