Apprentice jockey Jenn Miller, riding for the first time since being seriously injured in a spill 17 months earlier, ran second in her comeback race aboard River Card Stable's Moneymeister in Monday's opener at Laurel Park.
Miller settled the 5-year-old Bodemeister gelding, trained by Wayne Potts, in third before moving up to a threatening position around the turn and into the stretch before pacesetter Free to Trump pulled away through the lane to win by 4 ½ lengths. Moneymeister held second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Time for Quality.
“I feel fantastic. I could not be happier,” Miller said. “I am so excited to be back. It felt so good to put the silks and the boots back on. It's great.”
The 33-year-old Miller suffered a traumatic brain injury and broken jaw when her mount, Green Time, broke down and fell after the wire Nov. 25, 2017 at Charles Town, unseating the rider, who appeared to be struck by a trailing horse. Earlier that day, Miller finished second on Dance Or Stroll in a claiming event at Laurel.
Miller underwent surgery for her injuries and was admitted to MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. for occupational therapy. The Wales, Mass. native continued her recovery at home, and a Go Fund Me campaign started on her behalf with a goal of $10,000 raised $27,595 toward expenses.
“It's been a long journey. But, that being said, I'm really glad the Maryland racing community is one that allowed me to take the time that I needed to come back and be fit and ride a mile race and be able to talk after,” Miller said. “A lot of jockeys come back after their first race and they can't talk. I have a lot of people to thank for that.”
A strong work ethic and a passion to return to race riding guided Miller, a former Grand Prix dressage rider, in her comeback from multiple seizures, memory loss and issues with balance, concentration and focus. She was cleared to get back on horses last November, nearly a year since being hurt.
“[I did] a lot of cardio, a lot of weight lifting. Fortunately I'm little, so I don't have to worry too much about building muscle mass,” she said. “I've been getting on 10, 11 horses a day, six days a week for a little while now just to build up the fitness.”
Miller rode in eight amateur races before making her professional Thoroughbred debut Oct. 21, 2016 at Keeneland, finishing sixth on Trust in Diane. She earned her first victory on Exclusive Symphony Dec. 4, 2016 at Parx, and picked up her most recent win with Sippin'onbubbles Nov. 18, 2017 at Laurel.
For her career, the five-pound apprentice owns 53 wins from 447 starts with nearly $1.1 million in purse earnings.
“Like the guys around here say, 'It's Miller time,'” she said. “I'm back.”
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