After surviving a double lung transplant and complications during his recovery that left him delirious for weeks earlier in the year, Standardbred breeder George Millar experienced a dream season in 2021 with his homebreds that left him wondering if he was still hallucinating on O'Brien Awards night.
"I went from winning a lot of [Ontario Sires Stakes] Grassroots races and maybe the odd Gold to winning 11 Gold events last year," said Millar. "It was crazy. So you still try to absorb all that and say 'am I still just hallucinating from my surgery or did this actually happen?'"
Celebrating the success of his stable at his Stouffville, Ont. farm with family, friends and staff while watching the O'Brien Awards virtual gala on February 6, Millar had accumulated three trophies by the end of the evening.
The 71-year-old horseman was awarded top honours in Canada as Armstrong Breeder of the Year for a $2 million season with his homebreds, including the country's top two-year-old pacing fillies, O'Brien winner Prohibition Legal and finalist Silver Label, and champion two-year-old pacing colt Betterhavemymoney.
"To breed them yourself, I've got great daughters and I've got great grandchildren, but these mares, it's kind of like family," said Millar. "It's like seeing your kids go out and play sports and do well."
In addition to the O'Brien Award stars, Millar Farms produced Ontario Sires Stakes winners Powertrain, Aviator, Cyclone Seelster, Sweet Pink, Cantstoplying and My Blueberry Buck, conditioned by Nick Gallucci, who was runner-up for Trainer of the Year.
"I respect so much how [Nick] cares for my horses," Millar told Trot Insider. "He's a special young man, he really is. You've got to remember, this is only his second year he's been doing this with the stakes [horses]. He said the first year was a learning experience for him, now he's starting to figure it out. I said, 'Yeah, you figured it out real quick.'"
While his latest crop of stars is aptly named around a theme of boozy cocktails worthy of a celebratory toast, Millar is looking forward to 2022 bringing a winning tune.
Among his promising two-year-olds are Silver Label's full-sister Savethelastdance, and Honey Love, a Big Jim sister to My Blueberry Buck, both named after classic songs by The Drifters.
Trot Insider caught up with Millar, who shares some of his favourite moments from the season and discusses the breeding opportunities in Ontario.