Hardy stayer Big Mike, the winner of the Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) last Saturday, has taken his breeders Sally and Geoffrey Fausett on a ride of a lifetime.
The retired couple race the gallant gelding with members of the extended Phelan family, and were thrilled when he recorded his 12th win in the Hawke’s Bay Cup.
“It’s been a thrill of a lifetime for us,” Sally Fausett said. “Horse racing is a wonderful thing and you never know what’s going to happen.”
When the Fausetts retired from their successful short-horn cattle breeding business in Hawke’s Bay they moved to Kahahura, north of Rotorua. They hadn’t really decided what to do with their 36 acre block of land until Sally found a book in the local library on breeding thoroughbreds.
“I went to the library and found a book about horse breeding and we thought, why not have a go at that?” Fausett said.
“I just love producing things and watching them from when they are born till they mature, we had never had anything to do with horses before. We found it quite exciting and using this book as a guideline we set off to buy a mare.
“Funnily enough the first place we went to look at a mare, the gentleman who was selling the mare was reading the same book. I can’t for the life of me think what it was called, but it was all about top stallions and it was absolutely fascinating.
“We went to inspect some mares and our daughter came with us. In the paddock with the mare we had in mind was a black mare with a white blaze. We ended up buying them both but got rid of the other one.”
That black mare was Landvetter a winning Felix The Cat mare who would go on to produce Big Mike. Paramount in their thinking was the desire to breed a stayer, so they sent Landvetter to Columbia and she produced a colt.
“We bred the Colombia foal, and when it came to a certain age, we thought we should sell it,” she said.
“We thought it was just like selling cattle and had no idea really what to do, so we rang a bloodstock agent who came out and inspected him. He said we could expect to get around $5,000 for him, so we weren’t really impressed. When we asked him what the alternatives were, he suggested we find a trainer and race it.
“So, Geoff went down to Ngongataha and asked around about a horse trainer and someone recommended Craig Phelan, and that was it. We have been great friends ever since. Craig now trains at Cambridge with his son Shaun.
“It’s been a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship ever since. We were as green as grass and Craig’s been wonderful. I guess with a smaller trainer you will have much more of a close relationship.”
The Colombia foal was named Oforawesome and won a race for the partnership before he was sold to Australia where he won a further eight races. After that foal they bred a filly by Sandtrap which they raced but had left the mare empty.
After Oforawesome’s success they decided they wanted something a bit more commercial than Colombia and went to his three-quarter brother Don Eduardo. She produced a filly from the first mating and a year later Big Mike.
The filly Donnavetter was injured as a foal and didn’t race and is now being bred from by the Fausetts. After Big Mike they had left Landvetter empty but when Craig Phelan suggested leasing her to send to Jakkalberry they decided that they would like to be in too so they shared the foal. The resulting foal, a colt, is now rising three and in work with the Phelans.
Donnavetter has a colt foal by Sweynesse at foot and is in foal to Belardo.
“I liked the look of Sweynesse and with him being by Lonhro I wanted to breed back to Eight Carat again,” Fausett said.
“I heard Sir Patrick Hogan say once that when you are planning a mating it’s just as important to breed back to good mares as it is a good stallion, so that’s my theory for going to Sweynesse.
“With Belardo it was Craig’s influence again, he had been to the Ready To Run Sale and he rang up and said how about if that mare goes to Belardo, he seems to be crossing well with Don Eduardo mares. I had a look and that’s where she went.
“I have got another book now, Clive Harper’s Thoroughbred Broodmare Book, and I have read what he said about top broodmares of the past. It’s my bible, pedigrees are now an obsession and the young horses are Geoffrey’s thing. He is nearly 80 now so realistically we will keep breeding them while we can handle them.”