ockey Kielan Woods insists he is “really excited” to be heading back to the scene of his biggest triumph in the saddle aboard Millers Bank, who he reports is “fresh and ready” to go in the Jewson St Helens Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree on Sunday (23rdOctober), which is Jewson Halloween Family Day.
Having teamed up to secure Grade One glory in the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase over course and distance in April the pair will be re-united in the Grade Two prize, which is the feature race on the seven-race card.
Although the Alex Hales-trained gelding failed to feature on his most recent start at Punchestown the Gloucestershire-based rider, who celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month, believes he can take a step forward and hit the heights again this season.
Woods said: “I’m really excited and he was fantastic last season. I don’t see any reason why he can’t be as good this season as he was last.
“He is fresh and ready to go and that run at Punchestown will have stood him in good stead as they are big fences there. Although we didn’t get that competitive it was more experience for him.
“He likes a flat track and this looks a perfect race to start him off in. Hopefully he can put in a nice clear round of jumping. If he gets beaten by a better horse on the day so be it as this is only a starting point.”
After making a winning start over fences at Huntingdon last October the gelded son of Passing Glance failed to complete his next two starts before filling the runner-up in the Grade Two Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase under Woods at Kempton Park in February.
Despite Millers Bank previous non completions Woods has no reservations about his ability in the jumping department.
He said “I didn’t really sit on him at the start of the last season as Harry Bannister did but he had a bit of bad luck on him and I got the ride back.
“He didn’t do too much wrong and he was just a bit unfortunate to get unseated twice and he was running some lovely races but sometimes these things happen in racing.
“He takes a little bit of organising but he is a good jumper.
“He is not a horse I normally ride out at home but I do school him when I go in. They are all happy with him at home. He has had a couple of schools and he has jumped very well.”
More than six months might have passed since Woods, who also tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival last season aboard Global Citizen, celebrated his breakthrough top-level triumph, he still holds vivid memories of what was a real red letter occasion.
He said: “The race was very straightforward. He got into a lovely rhythm and he jumped well all the way. I could not believe how he quickened up after the last.
“It was an unbelievable feeling and something I had always dreamed off. It was a bit of a shock and it didn’t really sink in until I looked back at it. It was a great to win a Grade One and it would be great to get more on the board.
“At the start of last season I had just got the job with Ben Pauling and for Global Citizen to come along and win a Grand Annual was great.
“It came at the right time as it had been a bit stop start with injuries. To get that and then the Grade One at Aintree was unbelievable.”
While Millers Bank will start his campaign over two and a half miles, Woods is confident that connections will be able to explore options over further later in the season.
He said: “He ran over an extended three miles at Punchestown but that came a bit quick after running at the top level at Aintree. Had he turned up in the same form as Aintree he would have gone much closer.
“Fair play to Alex for taking him over to have a go as not many English horses went over there.
“I think he will stay all day long and I have no queries about that whatsoever. I’d have no qualms about him getting three miles in the future.”
2.40pm Jewson St Helens Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase (Grade 2) 2m 3f 200y – Declared Runners
1 Hitman (FR) ts 6 11 12 Mason, Hogarth, Ferguson & Done Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden
2 Millers Bank 8 11 6 Millers Bank Partnership Alex Hales Kielan Woods
3 Do Your Job (IRE) ts 8 10 13 Mr Mark Dunphy Michael Scudamore Luca Morgan (3)
4 Captain Tom Cat (IRE) 7 10 12 Deva Racing (CTC) Dr Richard Newland Sam Twiston-Davies
5 Ga Law (FR) 6 10 9 The Footie Partnership Jamie Snowden Jonathan Burke
6 Soldier of Destiny (IRE) ts 6 10 4 Sir Chips Keswick Jamie Snowden Gavin Sheehan
7 Riders Onthe Storm (IRE) ts 9 10 3 Carl Hinchy and Mark Scott Richard Hobson Brian Hughes
8 Beakstown (IRE) ts, p 9 10 2 Bryan Drew Dan Skelton Harry Skelton
8 declared runners