Tag Archive for: Pendil Novices’ Chase

Hales to persevere over fences with Millers Bank

Connections of Millers Bank will keep him over fences once he recovers from a wind operation, despite the eight-year-old unseating Harry Bannister in his last two novice chases.

The Alex Hales-trained Passing Glance gelding won twice over hurdles last season and was not beaten far when third in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle in April.

Having scored with ease on his chasing debut at Huntingdon on his return to action in October, hopes were high that he would progress at a higher level.

However, he blundered away a Grade Two novices’ chase at Newbury when looking set to score and unseated Bannister for a second time in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Hales said: “We are not going back over hurdles, but if you’d have asked me that immediately after the Cheltenham race, I think I would have said, ‘that’s a good idea’.

“If you watch the Cheltenham race, he jumps impeccably everywhere bar a trappy fourth-last – how many times have we seen it – and he just didn’t get his landing gear out. He went to save himself and Harry went out the side door.

“Newbury was a bit the same. I made a fool of myself before the race in an interview, because I said he had jumped more fences than Arkle, but he had. I don’t think, long-term, his jumping is a problem.

“He was quite a slow learner over hurdles and that is the same over fences.”

Millers Bank is convalescing after a minor wind operation and may not be seen out again until the end of February, according to his Edgcote-based handler.

“He has had a wind op,” added Hales. “We tinkered with it last year after he ran in the Welsh Champion Hurdle and he improved no end for that, so we have done exactly the same thing, and that means we won’t run for three weeks or a month.

“It may well lead us to whether or not we go to Cheltenham now. We may come up with a prep race and make Aintree our big target instead.

“It is sort of up in the air. Do we go to the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton (February 26), then go to Aintree after that? It is a bit of a loose one and nothing is set in stone.

“Timing-wise, the Pendil is quite good.

“I suppose the only other one, if you got him back early enough – but there is the threat of soft ground – is the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown (February 1).

“He has won on heavy but you can’t get away from the fact that he was much more efficient on better ground in the spring, especially when third in the Grade One at Aintree.

“I think we have had what we call a hiccough, or a bump in the road, but I’m pretty confident about his fencing.

For Pleasure is set to head to Doncaster at the end of the month
For Pleasure is set to head to Doncaster at the end of the month (David Davies/PA)

“Plus, the problem going hurdling is that he is only a novice until May. If you start going hurdling now and you are not good enough, then next year you’ve got to run in handicap chases off an elevated mark and you are either running in big-field handicap chases or having to go to Carlisle for the Colin Parker (Memorial Intermediate Chase) or something like that.

“He is only a novice, let’s treat him as that this year.

“On another day, he’d have won a Grade Two at Newbury and he would probably have finished second to Venetia Williams’ horse at Cheltenham (L’Homme Presse) and we’d be saying he’d have had a good season.”

For Pleasure could head to Doncaster
For Pleasure could head to Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Meanwhile, last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third, For Pleasure, who took the scalp of Grade Two Newbury novice chase winner Nassalam at Plumpton last month, will take a step up in class at Doncaster.

Hales said: “For Pleasure will go for the (Grade Two) Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster (January 29) and then we will see where we are after that. He’s in blinding form, in really good nick – we could run him tomorrow.

“We decided to space his season out a bit. Last season, bless him, he had nine runs before he ran in the Supreme and we are giving him a bit of an easier time this year. Ultimately, I’d like to end up at Aintree with him. We will probably have to take in Cheltenham as well.”