Racing community celebrates life of Joe Miller

The Maryland racing community Jan. 4 celebrated the life of Joe Miller, the long-time horse ambulance driver who died Dec. 15 at age 53.

Miller, who most recently worked on the track maintenance crew for the Maryland Jockey Club, was known for his kindness, love of horses and people, and his pit bull Einstein, who popularly made the rounds among the crowd assembled in TIPS in the Laurel Park clubhouse.

A collection of photos taken by MJC photographer Jim McCue rotated on television monitors during the service.

“He was my friend,” said Scott “Goose” Daniels, who met Miller in the early 1990s “I’m going to miss him. This dog is in good hands. I’m going to take care of him.”

“It’s truly a blessing when you get to know a person who loved God and loved people,” said Richard Monterrey, a minister and exercise rider. “Joe was very special to us. Maybe Joe is gone, but he’s living. We can’t see him but we know we’ll see him later.”

“Thirty years ago, I remembered Joe working for (trainer) Richard Delp, and for the last 20 years I remembered him being at the quarter-pole (with the horse ambulance),” said Bobby Lillis, benevolence administrator for the MTHA. “I remember him now being at the finish line, but you can bet your bottom dollar he’s in the winner’s circle with God our Creator.”

Miller was an amateur photographer who regularly took photos of horses on the track during training as well as of local wildlife—he was particularly fond of the bald eagles that grace the Laurel infield. His ability to handle a difficult job—responding quickly to assist racehorses on the track—left the biggest impression with the racing community.

“It was a big relief knowing Joe was out there on the track,” jockey Trevor McCarthy said. “We want to thank him for always being out there for us jockeys.”

Gomez an Eclipse Award finalist for top apprentice jockey

Maryland-based rider Kevin Gomez is one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey of 2016. The finalists were named Jan. 5.

Gomez, 22, joins Lane Luzzi and Luis Ocasio as finalists in a category that has been won by other Maryland-based jockeys such as Chris McCarron (1974); Kent Desormeaux (1987); Luzzi’s father, Mike Luzzi (1989); Mark Johnston (1990); Ryan Fogelsonger (2002); and Victor Carrasco (2013).

“I feel happy and I’m honored to be there,” Gomez said. “It makes me feel proud. Not all the bug boys get to be there in their first year of riding, so it means a lot to me. I think I’ve done better than I thought. I didn’t think I’d do as well as I have. Knowing I’m one of the three finalists makes me feel even better.”

Gomez, who last rode as an apprentice Oct. 22, finished seventh in Maryland with 58 wins in 2016. Overall, he won 85 races with $1,926,939 in purse earnings.

Gomez, a native of Guatemala, was 13 when he came to the United States in 2007 to be with his father, Oscar Gomez, a leading rider at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in western New York. He won his first career race there Aug. 25, 2015, with Aly’s Favorite Boy, and arrived in Maryland in December 2015.

  Luzzi, 19, began his career in Maryland in November 2015 and relocated to South Florida in June. He won 88 races in 2016 with purses of earnings of $2.2 million. Ocasio, based in Pennsylvania, led all apprentice riders with 110 wins and $2.8 million in purses last year.

Eclipse Award winners will be announced at the dinner and ceremony Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.

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