Sad side to all the way Cup victory

4 min read

Written by Paul Vettise

Australian success has had bittersweet undertones for the connections of the bold front-running stayer Our Big Mike (NZ) (Don Eduardo {NZ}).

While the three-start campaign has been hugely rewarding for all concerned, it has also served to emphasise the magnitude of the recent loss of the 6-year-old’s dam Landvetter (NZ) (Felix The Cat {USA}).

“The mare had a colt by Jakkalberry this season, but she died the next day and we’re all gutted about that,” Shaun Phelan said.

The Kiwi jumps jockey has been alongside his father Craig, who trains and part-owns Our Big Mike, for the duration of the Victorian campaign, which was highlighted by a bittersweet victory in the Listed Pakenham Cup.

Jericho journey

Phelan junior and his partner Emily Farr have been active in their own rights in Australia with both riding in the inaugural Jericho Cup at Warrnambool, the latter earning bragging rights in the marathon 4600 metre event after partnering Crafty Cruiser (God Journey {USA}) into second.

Our Big Mike won six races in New Zealand and following a sixth placing in the G1 Livamol Classic before it was decided to head to Australia.

The gelding finished third in both the Kyneton Cup and in an open handicap at Moonee Valley before his thorough drubbing of his Pakenham Cup rivals. His winning time of 2.34.68 slashed more than two seconds off the track record.

“The 2500 metres really suited him, he’s got a high cruising speed and he stays.” - Shaun Phelan.

“We were happy with the horse and this was the race we aimed him at. The 2500 metres really suited him, he’s got a high cruising speed and he stays. He’s just thrived since he’s been here.”

Our Big Mike

Our Big Mike is booked to return home on Tuesday, but the team are rethinking their plans and may stay on a while longer.

“We’re not sure what to do at this stage,” Phelan said. “We could put in a late nomination for the Auckland Cup, but there are a couple of races at Flemington coming up over 2500 metres so we’ll have a talk about it.

“We’ve looked after him as he’s taken a long time to mature.” – Shaun Phelan.

“We’ve looked after him as he’s taken a long time to mature.”

Our Big Mike was bred by Geoff and Steph Fausett and they race him with Craig Phelan, his brother Brandon and their father Calvin.

“We broke him in and also had his half-brother Oforawesome who was sold,” Shaun Phelan said.

Oforawesome (NZ) (Colombia {NZ}) was Landvetter’s first foal and broke his maiden at his third start before his sale to Australian interest, for whom he won a further eight races.

Our Big Mike also provided pinch-hitting jockey Jye McNeill, who got the call up after original rider Noel Callow was hospitalised following a midweek fall at Sandown, with the perfect 24th birthday present at Pakenham.

Trainer Craig Phelan with birthday boy Jye McNeil after Our Big Mike's Cup victory.

“Obviously, my thoughts are with Noel, who was meant to ride this horse.” - Jye McNeil said.

“Obviously, my thoughts are with Noel, who was meant to ride this horse,” McNeil said.

“Shaun showed me a few of his replays from New Zealand and he does like to bowl along in front and he can sustain a strong gallop.

“We got a beautiful break along the back straight and when I quickened him up from the half-mile he sustained it.

“The key to the win was that he began well. There was good speed on paper and once he got to the front I knew he'd be hard to run down.”

Waiting tactics rewarded

Craig Phelan said with maturity he was confident Our Big Mike could foot it with open class stayers.

“We knew back in New Zealand there was a cups win somewhere, but we weren't expecting it in Aussie.

“We thought we'd come over and target some country cups, and to win this is special.

“My son Shaun and his partner Emily gave me a kick in the backside and said I had to get over here to chase the money. I have and we've got our biggest win.”