He’d always wanted to be a jockey, but at 193 centimetres and 105 kilograms his father-in-law quipped he’s got more chance of being the horse.
“I don’t know whether that’s a good status to have, but I tell you what mate I have a lot of fun at the races,” Mills said of his celebrations.
“I don’t know how much Barb [Joseph] likes them, but everyone else likes them. I think we’ll keep running with them.
“Me surviving could be one problem, but everyone around me surviving could be another.
“Last night one of my mates said, ‘Imagine if you win two races, they’ll have to rebuild that grandstrand’.”
Mills is good mates with Paul Jones – part of the Joseph and Jones mother-son-and-son training partnership.
His brother played rugby league with Jones at the Canberra Raiders junior level, while Mills played football with Jones’ brother.
Mills’ first horse won her first ever start and he was hooked from there.
Almost Court produced a gutsy run to lead all the way in last year’s Cup and hang on for an emotional win.
He felt he was a chance again this year, with the bookies rating him at $16.
Mills was wary of Emperor’s Way ($6.50), but his side bet with his Sydney mate will have to wait for another day with the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained gelding running in the Randwick City Stakes on Saturday instead.
“It was probably my most special win with the JJR stable. It was pretty emotional and we worked hard to get that one,” Mills said of last year’s Cup.
“We were the only Canberra horse in it and we were probably a bit of the underdog as well.
“I think it’s a slightly tougher race than last year so that’ll be a challenge.
“The fact that he’s second-up could be a concern … the positive I like is he’s only got 54 kilos again.
“I’m quietly confident if all the stars align. We’ll have something to cheer at the 150m mark anyway.”
Mercurial Lad was shaping as a good local hope in the listed National Sprint.
He’s a $10 shot, behind $3.20-favourite Don’t Give A Damn, with James Cummings’ Flow ($4) also highly fancied.
Although it wasn’t always that way. When they first got him he used to “play up like a second-hand chainsaw”.
But then he started to work this racing malarky out.
He’s won three races in Sydney, including a Highway Handicap, and also won the Snake Gully Cup.
But there’s bigger and better things in the pipeline for the five-year-old gelding.
“I like his chances. We’d like a softer track for the Lad, so if we get a bit of rain we’ll be pretty excited,” Mills said.
“But we’ve nominated him for the [$3 million Doncaster Mile] and we’ve got some bigger plans for him this prep as well.
“He’s a super horse and he’s probably up there with my favourite. His last two wins in Sydney have been something to celebrate I’ll tell you.”
Look out Thoroughbred Park.
BLACK OPAL STAKES DAY
Sunday: Gates open 11.30am with the first race at 1pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.