Hightstown, NJ — Emanuel “Manny” Miller left his home in Ohio this past November to work for the stable of Sarah and Ake Svanstedt in Florida and it did not take him long to discover the benefits of a move to the Sunshine State.
“It was the warmest winter I’ve had, by far,” the 24-year-old Miller said with a laugh. “It was nice down there. It wasn’t cold, and even if it rained, it was still not bad. I had a lot of fun. It was a fast winter.”
Miller, who started in harness racing as a teenager and has been driving and training for four years, joined the Svanstedt Stable last winter with an eye toward continuing his education and development in the sport. He first assisted with the stable’s young horses in Florida and now is working with the Svanstedts and their 82 horses at their central New Jersey farm.
“I just want to get experience,” Miller said. “I’m grooming two horses and I jog and train a lot. I might ship here and there. I’m just doing what I can to help out. Hopefully, I get to drive some horses. I’m learning.”
Miller was living in Beach City, Ohio, when he heard about a job working with racehorses at nearby Flowing Mineral Farm. He decided to check it out.
“I didn’t really know anything about it,” Miller said. “I’d worked with buggy horses, but I’d never seen a racetrack before. I went and tried it. I really liked it and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I started training, I really wanted to start driving too. I was always hoping I could get my license.”
While working for trainer Herman Hagerman, Miller got his opportunity. He started driving in 2018 and a year later got his first win at the West Virginia State Fair with pacer Cabo Real. The following afternoon, he added three more victories to be the leading driver at the four-day, 16-race meet.
“It seemed once the first one was done that it was a little easier,” Miller said, referring to his first win.
Miller ended last year with 11 career driving wins in 148 races. He picked up a victory in an amateur race at Northfield Park on Nov. 13, one of two drives on the day, and then embarked on his new adventure with the Svanstedts.
“So far, he’s a good learner,” Sarah Svanstedt said. “He has horse experience, but he’s been around older horses and still has to learn the young horses. It’s different training and driving them. It’s easier to manage the older horses than young horses. If you can drive young horses and do good with them, it helps you as a driver overall.”
Earlier this month, Miller got his first drive of 2022, and it came in a Grand Circuit event. Miller drove Ake Svanstedt-trained Mighty Angel, owned by Midnight Stables in Ohio, in the Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old female trotters at Freehold. She finished seventh.
“It was pretty exciting,” Miller said about his Grand Circuit debut. “I was a little nervous here at the farm during the week. When I got there, I had to paddock her and help warm up, so I was pretty busy and didn’t have time to think about it. When I got on the track, I really wasn’t that nervous like I thought I might be.
“I got away third but going to the half I knew my horse was not going to be there that day. She was not herself, not what I expected her to be. It was kind of disappointing, but that’s how it goes.”
His immediate future in the sulky is a work in progress.
“We will develop a plan, but he is still learning,” Sarah Svanstedt said. “He has to take it step by step.”
Miller is ready for that journey and soaking up as much as he can with the Svanstedts.
“I’m hoping to drive, but it’s tougher here,” Miller said. “But when I got this opportunity, I had to try. They have a lot of good horses and I’m getting good experience, seeing different ways of doing things. I’m going to stick here for the year and see where it takes me.”