Kiwi trainer Craig Phelan (R) and jockey Jye McNeil have won the Pakenham Cup with Our Big Mike.
A planned three-run campaign in Australia has paid dividends for New Zealand trainer Craig Phelan and his family with Our Big Mike scoring a record-breaking win in the Pakenham Cup.
Having his first try at Saturday’s 2500m journey, Our Big Mike was sent straight to the front by replacement jockey Jye McNeil, giving the rider the perfect 24th birthday present.
Our Big Mike ($11) defied the opposition up the long Pakenham straight to run out a two-length winner from Berisha ($10) with $3.90 equal favourite Dal Harraild a neck away third.
The winning time of 2 min 34.68 secs took more than two seconds off the track record.
Phelan has been commuting between New Zealand and Melbourne in recent weeks leaving his son Shaun and his partner Emily Farr, both jumps jockeys, to oversee the stayer’s preparation.
“We knew back in NZ there was a cups win somewhere, but we weren’t expecting it in Aussie,” Phelan said.
“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.”
Our Big Mike is booked to fly home to New Zealand on Tuesday but Phelan said those plans might be shelved.
But for what races, Phelan is unsure. He said his head was “up in the clouds” and he wanted to enjoy the win.
McNeil picked up the ride on Thursday after Noel Callow was was hospitalised following a fall at Sandown on Wednesday.
“Obviously my thoughts are with Noel Callow 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 today’s 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.”