Racing at Shenandoah Downs took on a whole new look this past weekend. The Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountain ranges still surround the charming half-mile oval in Woodstock and a dozen or so races still take place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Fans, both on track and off, witnessed a big gray horse and young lady atop it though, observing pre-race and in-race action from the infield.
35-year-old Devan Miller and her 15-year-old quarter horse named Bullet are the newest additions to the Woodstock racing scene. Devan is the track’s new outrider and Bullet is her trusted outriding horse. Their first action in town was during last Saturday’s (Sept. 23) dreary weather card, courtesy of Tropical Storm Ophelia.
“I’m a fourth-generation harness horseman, grew up around horses and have always seen them,” said 35-year-old Miller. “One of my bucket list items was to try being an outrider so a couple years ago, I attempted it one race with a lady at Pompano and ended up loving it. I ended up buying a horse (Bullet) I use now and rode with everyone that I could from that point on to gain experience.”
Being an outrider is a full-time passion now though she still helps her stepbrother, Mark Winters Jr., jog and train in the mornings at his farm in Ohio and help out on race days. Devan was an outrider at Dayton Raceway last year and at various County Fairs for the past couple years.
“I’ve been a trainer and driver and just wanted to try something different,” she said. “I really do love it though. It’s a rush when you get to chase one or even just help an unruly horse before the race starts. Plus, every girl likes to get paid to ride her horse. Bullet has been at it a lot longer than me. He’s good at it, loves his job and gives me a ridiculous amount of confidence to do the job. He was an outrider horse before I got him. I needed one that knew what he was doing.”
“Having a good outrider is essential for accident prevention and horse safety,” added Shenandoah’s Director of Racing Dee Lineweaver.
Miller did not have to look far for inspiration to pursue a career in harness racing. Her father is Hall of Fame driver David Miller whose credentials are quite impressive. He has won 15,164 races from 69,236 starts and his horses have accumulated purse earnings of $279 million. Miller won the Pacing Triple Crown in 2003, has numerous Breeder’s Crown trophies and won the Little Brown Jug five times. He is one of only two drivers to win the Jug and Jugette in the same year.
Devan trains and drives as well, and actually competed in Viriginia previously — at Colonial Downs from 2008 – 2010. In 2009, she led her Blueridge Tornado to victory in the $38,500 Virginia Breeder’s 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Trotting Championship in New Kent and on the same day, drove Judith Welty’s Nicota to victory in the $43,800 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Pacing Championship.
Most recently, Devan won the Spring Haven Farm Ladies Driving Series while racking up 543 points in the multi-race competition. She captured series legs at Fairs in Wilmington with Jack Wacker, Attica with Billy Badger N, Hicksville and Van Wert with horses Cruzen Crass and Fred’s Nightmare, then secured the Series title honors with a win September 19 at the Delaware (Ohio) County Fair with Fred’s Nightmare.
This Saturday (Sept. 30), Devan will compete against four other female drivers in Shenandoah’s annual Powder Puff Derby which is part of the track’s “Pink Power” breast cancer awareness promotion. She will forego sitting atop Bullet in the third race so she can sit in the sulky behind her Powder Puff horse, Triple T Swinger. She will face other female drivers like Betsy Brown, Sierra Seidner, Veronica Merton and Stacey McLenaghan. The first of 14 races goes to post at 1 PM.
“I like Shenandoah Downs a lot and look forward to the rest of the meet. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. l’m sure it’s more beautiful when it’s not covered in clouds and rain.”
Saturday’s entire card — along with the race days the rest of the meet — can be wagered online via Twinspires, TVG, Xpressbet and NYRAbets, and at many OTBs and tracks around the country. Free Shenandoah Downs Trackmaster programs along with Derby Bill’s Tip Sheet and race replays are available at shenandoahdowns.com. The fall season continues every Saturday and Sunday through October 29.