The 2017 fall meeting at Del Mar was a special one for the seaside track as it hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships for the first time. It was also a spectacular meeting for Bonsall-based trainer Peter Miller, who won two Breeders' Cup races and ran away with the fall season training championship.
Del Mar began hosting fall meetings in 2014 and calls the shorts sessions the "Bing Crosby Season" in honor of its famous co-founder. Some handicappers call it the "Peter Miller Season" as Miller has won the fall training title every year but 2015.
Miller owns five training championships at Del Mar – he won the title at the track's summer meetings in 2012 and 2014 – and four at Santa Anta.
"This is probably tops, with the Breeders' Cup (victories) and lapping the field," responded Miller when asked how the 2017 fall meeting training crown ranked with his other titles.
The "lapping the field" reference was a nod to the final trainer standings which showed Miller with more than twice as many victories as runner-up Phil D'Amato. Miller won 19 races (a fall meeting record) during the 16-day meeting while D'Amato won nine.
Miller was so dominant at the fall session that he finished with more victories than leading jockey Flavien Prat, who earned the riding title with 18 wins. It is very rare when the top trainer at a meeting has more wins than the leading rider.
"I'm just very proud of our team," said Miller. "Everyone worked really hard and it's very gratifying."
Miller garnered his 19 wins from 62 starters, which translates to a remarkable win rate of 31 percent. His horses also collected seven seconds and eight thirds as his runners finished in the money 55 percent of the time.
"It was just a dream meet," said Miller. "I think it was just a matter of having horses that fit conditions (the types of races being offered), getting lucky, getting good rides and good post positions. Everything couldn't have been better. I just feel very blessed."
Miller, who was 0-for-9 with one second and one third in Breeders' Cup competition, earned his first Breeders' Cup victory at his home track when Stormy Liberal defeated stablemate Richard's Boy in the $1 million Turf Sprint. Two hours later, Miller notched his second Breeders' Cup win when Roy H captured the $1.5 million Sprint.
Miller, a excitable chap, was bounding around in front of the winner's circle after both victories, exchanging high fives and hugs with all associated with the winning horses.
"It was pretty surreal," said Miller of his big Breeders' Cup day. "It was kind of an out-of-body experience. We were just kind of floating. We had a pretty good celebration that night."
The horses Miller won with at the fall meeting ranged from stakes horses to claiming horses, and from promising young prospects like War Heroine, a 2-year-old filly who won her debut by 6 3/4 lengths, to veteran Got Even, who earned his ninth career victory in his 59th trip to the starting gate.
"War Heroine was impressive in her first outing," said Miller. "Got Even, he's an 8-year-old that we love to have around and he won for us. So, the young and the old – everyone showed up at this meet."
Miller has 65 horses stabled at the San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall and another 20 at Santa Anita, which will open its 2017-2018 racing season in Arcadia Dec. 26. Seventeen of Miller's 19 wins at the fall meeting were recorded by horses that he conditioned at San Luis Rey.
San Luis Rey trainer Adam Kitchingman scored a major upset at the fall meeting with the 2-year-old colt Greyvitos, who broke his maiden in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes Nov. 11. Dismissed at 19-1 in the wagering, Greyvitos paid $41.80 after defeating the Bob Baffert-trained favorite Mourinho by 1 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong sprint.
Sam Scolamieri, a longtime San Luis Rey trainer, also sent out a longshot winner Nov. 11. Scolamieri won the eighth race, a five-furlong turf dash, with 41-1 outsider Obey, who paid $85.80 after prevailing by a neck in a four-horse photo finish.
In total, horses that train at San Luis Rey won 29 races at Del Mar during the fall session. On Nov. 12, San Luis Rey-stabled runners won six of the nine races on the card as both Miller and Doug O'Neill had training triples.