by James Platz
When Big City Pearl crossed the wire for the first time in consecutive weeks at Miami Valley Raceway, trainer LeWayne Miller was just as surprised as the betting public. After all, Miller never intended to drop the 4-year-old trotter in the $30,000 open handicap. However, when races don’t fill up, interesting things happen.
“I’ve entered her into the class below, the $12,000 non-winners. She fit that, but they didn’t go with that class,” the packer explained. “They asked me if I wanted to get her out in the open and I said yes, just to give her a run and keep her tight. The last two starts she’s really surprised us.
With two runs under her belt, Big City Pearl lined up behind the Miami Valley starting gate on Monday, January 24 as the second-longest hit on the board at odds of 49-1. She started the season in the open handicap, coming in fifth on her 2022 debut. This time, however, the Chapter Seven—Annalina mare was on her game for Miller, who ran the trotter.
Dean Gillette Big City Pearl (with former trainer/rider/owner Verlin Yoder) at Hoosier Park.
“I moved away to the back and she got a little aggressive so I pulled her up hoping I could get to cover. And then she kept walking,” Miller said. “She got a little soft in the last corner. I thought she was done. But as soon as we reached the straight, it picked up another gear.
Big City Pearl poked a neck past Pass The Vape to take the open handicap in 1:54.3. Returning a week later, the mare marked her second straight in the class. Brett Miller took on driving duties in the Jan. 31 start, where the duo were sent off at 11-1. Once again, the 4-year-old won by a neckline, this time over second choice Refined and Mitchell Cushing in a time of 1:54.2.
“We were going to give her the day off last week, but she ran so well that we gave her another start,” conceded the coach.
Just as the move to open handicap wasn’t part of the plan, neither was a strong start to the new season. LeWayne Miller’s brother Daryl purchased Big City Pearl last September with plans to breed her in 2022. She is reserved for top Indiana stallion Swan For All. His recent success could change those plans.
“I just talked to my brother the other day. I said best to put her on Bluegrass Staking. We might have to plant her a bit, just a few here and there,” LeWayne said. “She’s a well-bred mare, so maybe she could step it up. Verlin always loved her and always thought she was better than what she did. She just hasn’t had many opportunities throughout the summer to show off.
Developed by Verlin Yoder, the trotter won three of nine freshman starts. As a 3-year-old, Big City Pearl lined up behind the gate 23 times, winning five times. Yoder entered her into the Hambletonian Oaks, where she missed the final after running 10th in her elimination. Daryl Miller, competing under the Miller101 Racing banner, purchased Year Two the following month and she qualified for New Connections on October 9. In nine attempts out of the Miller stable, Big City Pearl recorded two wins, but she also missed checks. thrice.
“She was a bit inconsistent. We were dealing with some health issues with her, but she seems to have gotten over that now,” Miller said. “She seems to like the weather. I don’t know if she prefers the cold or what. She’s also healthier, so that helps.
Earning $56,575 at three years old, the trotter is off to a quick start in the new year. She has yet to miss a check this season, with a second-place finish to go along with the pair of wins. Miller and his brother had hoped that Big City Pearl could generate income before moving into the breeding shed. The mare banked $36,500 in the first month of the year and could extend her racing career.
“We left the door open. We are not sure. It all depends on what she does,” the coach commented. “If she keeps making money, we’ll keep racing her. If she tells us she’s done, we’ll mate her.