Hall of Fame trainer Mack Miller dead at 89
Posted: Saturday, December 11, 2010 5:15 PM
by Mike Curry
Racing Hall of Fame trainer MacKenzie “Mack” Miller died on Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center in Lexington. He was 89.
Known as racing’s “gentleman trainer” during a 46-year career, Miller was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1987. The Versailles, Kentucky, native trained 72 stakes winners, including 1993 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Sea Hero and champions Leallah, Assagai, *Hawaii, and *Snow Knight.
Miller, who lived in Versailles in the home in which his wife, Martha, was born, also made his mark as a breeder. Mack and Martha Miller bred 1981 champion turf female De La Rose and 1999 champion two-year-old filly Chilukki in partnership with Dr. R. Smiser West, and his wife, Kathryn.
Mack Miller attended the first Keeneland meeting in 1936 with his father, who was a district representative for Greyhound Bus Lines and a breeder, and it was that day at Keeneland that ignited his passion for Thoroughbred racing. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Miller joined the staff at Calumet Farm as a stable hand in 1947, starting out with the broodmares before moving to the training barn.
Miller took out his trainer’s license in 1949 and earned his first career win with Shifty Dora in 1950. He was the private trainer for Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stable for 18 years, a run that included the Derby victory with Mellon’s homebred Sea Hero, and also enjoyed a successful partnership with owner Charles Engelhard, for whom he trained 1966 champion turf horse Assagai and 1969 champion turf horse *Hawaii.
Known for having a special touch with ill-tempered horses, Miller took over training *Snow Knight during his three-year-old season, after he had won 1974 Epsom Derby (Eng-G1). He conditioned him for his 1975 champion turf male campaign that included wins in the Canadian International Championship Stakes (Can-G1), Man o’ War Stakes (G1), and Manhattan Handicap (G2).
Leallah, his other champion as a trainer, shared two-year-old filly honors with Romanita in 1956.
Miller celebrated his induction into the Hall of Fame in style during the summer of 1987 when Mellon’s homebred Java Gold defeated older opponents to win the Whitney Handicap (G1) and powered to a two-length win in the Travers Stakes (G1) two weeks later, both at Saratoga Race Course.
Miller retired at the end of the 1995 season when Mellon discontinued his racing activities in the U.S. He continued as a breeder until Dr. West’s death in December 2006. The shared bloodstock of Miller and West was dispersed at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale and Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Mike Curry is a Thoroughbred Times TODAY editor