It's safe to say that no person has ever loved his or her sport
more than Delvin Miller loved harness racing. The record shows
that Miller, who died last week at 83, won 2,442 races and $11
million in purses, becoming the only professional athlete to
compete in eight decades. More than that, though, Miller was Mr.
Harness Racing, a driver, trainer, owner, breeder, track
official and, most important, the sport's unofficial ambassador
of goodwill. To promote harness racing, Miller traveled to
Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. He also talked such friends
as Arnold Palmer and former New York Yankees stars Whitey Ford
and Charlie (King Kong) Keller into investing in standardbreds,
thus adding some celebrity appeal to the sport.
Miller won his first race in 1929, but his big break came in
1947 when he went to Lexington, Ky., to take a look at a pacer
named Adios. At the time Adios was the property of Harry Warner,
one of the original Hollywood studio moguls. Adios had good
speed but the distressing habit of getting a big lead and
breaking stride just before the finish. But Miller liked Adios's
breeding, so, when Warner put him on the block, Miller mortgaged
his house and scraped up the $21,000 sale price.
That turned out to be perhaps the best investment in harness
racing history. In the 16 years that Adios lived after Miller
bought him, he sired sons and daughters who earned close to $20
million. All told, Miller made more than $1 million off his
Despite his good work, harness racing today is practically
moribund, but he never let that get him down. "The sport's been
awfully good to me," he liked to say, "so I'll go out of my way
to help it."
September 1, 1996
--William F. Reed