Mike makes him­self at home

Sunday Herald Sun - - On The Punt - GLENN McFAR­LANE PAK­EN­HAM CUP

A LATE pick-up ride pro­vided Jye McNeil with an early 24th birth­day present and brought the long-range plan of New Zealand trainer Craig Phe­lan to fruition when tough Kiwi stayer Our Big Mike took out the $300,000 Pak­en­ham Cup yes­ter­day.

The six-year-old geld­ing not only toughed it out to beat a good field by two lengths, he broke the track record — run­ning 2min 34.68sec.

In do­ing so, he also earned an ex­ten­sion to his work­ing “hol­i­day” to Aus­tralia.

“He was booked on the plane to go home on Tues­day, but it looks like we might have to leave him here for a bit longer,” Phe­lan said.

“It’s (my big­gest win), we knew back in New Zealand that there was a cups win some­where (for Our Big Mike), but we weren’t here in Aussie.”

McNeil, who turns 24 to­day, se­cured the mount af­ter Noel Cal­low was un­able to ride af­ter suf­fer­ing a nasty fall at Sandown on Wed­nes­day — though he has since been re­leased from hos­pi­tal with the all-clear.

“Ob­vi­ously my thoughts are with Noel Cal­low, who was meant to ride the horse ... which put him out,” McNeil said.

“(The Phe­lans) ac­tu­ally showed me a few of his re­plays from New Zealand and he does like to bowl along in front. He can sus­tain a strong gal­lop.

“We got a beau­ti­ful break down along the back straight, and when I quick­ened him up from the half-mile ex­pect­ing it (800m) he sus­tained it. Once he got to the front, I knew he’d be hard to run down.”

Our Big Mike started $11, and won from Ber­isha ($10), with equal $3.90 favourite Dal Har­raild — who suf­fered an off-fore fet­lock in­jury and was later vet­ted on track — back in third spot.

The other equal favourite, Bal­larat Cup win­ner Ki­wia, fin­ished sev­enth, while Gee­long Cup win­ner Ru­n­away ($10) ended up in 10th place.

Phe­lan said the Pak­en­ham Cup win, along with its $180,000 first prize, was a mas­sive thrill for his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his son Shaun and his part­ner Emily Farr, who are both jumps jock­eys in New Zealand.

“They gave me a kick in the back(side), say­ing, ‘Get over there, Dad, we need to chase these coun­try cups’,” Phe­lan said. AMADEUS made it back-to-back VOBIS Gold Bul­lions at Pak­en­ham yes­ter­day with trainer Mick Kent hope­ful there might be more bonuses in the fu­ture.

The six-year-old took his prize­money be­yond $350,000 af­ter staving off the fast-fin­ish­ing Mr Money­bags.

It was the first time Amadeus had saluted since the same race last year, main­tain­ing a great record he has at Pak­en­ham. He also won his maiden at the same track. “He is un­beaten here,” Kent said. “He’s a nice 78-graded horse, but to come here and run for that sort of money, which you wouldn’t be able to in his nor­mal grade, is great.” glenn.mcfar­[email protected]

Jye McNeil pi­lots Our Big Mike to vic­tory in the Pak­en­ham Cup. Pic­ture: DAVID CROSLING/AAP

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