Mike makes himself at home
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