Harness racing’s Scott Miller finds his ‘saviour’

Harness racing identity Scott Miller refers to Steve Zell as his “saviour”.

Miller has been in the sport for his entire life.

His parents owned pacers before he got into the mini trotters, progressed through to being a junior driver and now is an assistant trainer for the Shannon Price stable.

Most would think Miller has enjoyed a charmed run in the code, climbing through the ranks to be involved in Group 1 victories and qualifying a runner for the richest harness race in the history of the sport earlier this year.

But, even from his earliest days as a junior driver, Miller was battling with offensive jibes about his sexuality, which led him to consider taking his own life.

That all changed when Zell walked in the door.

The smiling schoolteacher from Brisbane changed Miller’s life and the pair have not looked back.

Now married, Miller says his husband came into his life at the perfect time.

Zell and Miller bonded over their love of animals and it went from there.

“Steve gave me the support network and care that I needed at the time,” Miller said.

“I would say there was a few times there I would tell Steve that I wished I was dead.

“It was so hard but now I do not feel that way. In those initial times, it does get like that. I had a lot of baggage when I met Steve.”

Zell grew up around a supportive network of friends and family and did not battle the level of obvious homophobia that Miller did.

But, he still says Miller helped him as much as he did going back the other way.

“I was going through my struggles as well and I feel we saved each other,” Zell said.

“We met at the perfect time.”

Scott Miller and Steve Zell.

The Zell and Miller partnership was set to be locked in for forever before the pandemic hit with their wedding delayed until late 2022.

They celebrated their first anniversary in September of this year.

“That just meant we pushed it back and grew to love each other even more,” Zell said of the nuptials delay.

“It was great to have both our dads speak at the wedding. It was a very successful night.”

Now in a safe and positive environment working in the Price stable and alongside Zell at home, it was not always that way for Miller.

He has been in the harness industry for decades and can recall terrible homophobic comments being thrown his way.

However, the former driver believes the attitude and mindset of the majority of participants and others involved in the sport today has changed, declaring it to be a much safer space for gay people than what it was when he was cutting his teeth.

Like all three codes in racing, Miller thinks that if a person works hard and has solid ethics, then their sexuality is and should be irrelevant.

“There was times where I would go to the races and one specific person would almost harass me with the way he would speak to me,” Miller said.

“That happened for years and I had that fear of it happening every time I went to the track.

“In the early days I was asked by someone else in racing if I had AIDS, maybe he was not trying to be hurtful by asking that but it really opened my eyes to what it is like.

“It pushed me back a little bit further but I found my partner Steve and he was probably my saviour.”

Scott Miller.

Miller has long been an assistant trainer to Price.

In reality, they train in partnership but Price remains as the trainer by name, with Miller happy to take a back seat behind the scenes.

Price and Miller both grew up in the industry and have been friends since their childhood years running around Albion Park.

Before coming out publicly as a homosexual, Miller and Price were married in a heterosexual relationship.

Even after their divorce, they have continued to work together in their stable.

It is most certainly a unique scenario but it works for them.

“When everything went down with coming out, it was hard on myself and Shannon’s emotions, as well,” Miller said.

“It took a while for us to get to a point – we were always still friends and never hated each other – where Shannon accepted it, as she was hurt, as well.

“People often ask me in racing how do I work with Shannon but we were friends for a long time before we even got together. We had a great friendship prior to being married and being together.

“Shannon was always supportive and understood how hard it was to me to come to the point of coming out to her.”

While Zell is busy as a schoolteacher during the week, he will often drop in after hours or on the weekend and give the team a hand around the stables, as well as posing for the winning photos on Saturday evening at Albion Park.

There is no animosity at all between the group.

“We have a great partnership and we still do now,” Miller said.

“Shannon is successful because of me and I am successful because of her. We do things properly and how we want to.”

The Miller and Price team is often referred to as “Team Raboki”.

Harness racing identity Scott Miller and Steve Zell at their wedding last year.

They qualified Speak The Truth for the first running of The Eureka in Sydney and also collected another Group level victory on the program.

Zell did not grow up around the standardbreds and often watches on in awe of his husband’s achievements.

“I acknowledge him all the time about how much effort he puts in and you can see the results,” Zell said.

“The commitment is the big thing in racing and the fine details, all the training and feeding and the rest of it. It shows in the results.”

For Miller, he is desperate to ensure others in racing do not need to suffer like he did in his early days.

He spent long periods of time speaking with a therapist and would welcome anyone in racing to contact him if they are struggling with their sexuality or needed any advice.

Miller would like to see a specific social worker appointed to help participants who may be struggling.

“If it saves someone’s life, to me that is a bonus,” Miller said.

“People need to be who they are and honest to themselves.

“It is about speaking up and taking to the right people who have gone through similar cases in the industry.”

Team Raboki after one of Speak The Truth's recent victories.

By Jordan Gerrans