There was definitely a catch in the voice of co-trainer Shaun Phelan as he described just what the victory of stable favourite Big Mike means to his family after he led all-the-way to win the Listed Power Farming Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) at Hastings.
The eight-year-old son of Don Eduardo has been a flag bearer for Phelan and his father Craig’s boutique training operation, having now won 12 of his 45 starts and more than $500,000 in prizemoney.
Included in that tally is a victory in the 2018 Listed Pakenham Cup (2500m), a highlight for the Phelan’s who also co-own the gelding. However, there has been plenty of heartache for all concerned in trying to get Big Mike back to his best after a somewhat disappointing spring campaign in Melbourne last year.
An eye-catching run for fifth over 1550m at Awapuni last Friday fitted Big Mike for his Hastings assignment and he didn’t disappoint with a thrilling front-running effort in the hands of apprentice Hazel Schofer.
Schofer never missed a beat as she set up a steady pace before booting clear on the home bend. Just as eventual minor placegetters Sir Nate and Yatima looked like challenging for victory, Big Mike kicked again and closed out a three and a half length win.
Surrounded by well-wishers, Phelan cut an emotional figure as he described the win.
“It’s been a long haul getting him right after Melbourne,” he said.
“It’s pretty amazing and pretty emotional to be honest.
“He’s part of the family and has taken us to places you couldn’t imagine.
“It’s just so good to see him back doing his best at the age he is now.”
Phelan had been worried that one lead-up run to the race would not be enough but was amazed how the horse thrived after that effort.
“We didn’t have many options for a lead up, so we took him to Awapuni last week to get a run into him,” he said.
“He ran a good race and the improvement in him in a week has been unreal. He’s just gone to another level in the last seven days.
“It was also a super ride by Hazel, who gets on well with our horses. He can just run those even sectionals and it took the sting out of those in behind him.
“It was also a perfect surface for him today and I think they should be commended for the track they put out for everyone.”
Phelan doesn’t have any specific plans for Big Mike although a start in the Group 3 Rotorua Cup (2200m) is an option provided the tracks don’t get too heavy.
“The Rotorua Cup is one idea we have had,” Phelan said.
“That’s Dad’s old stomping ground, so to win that race would be very special, but it will all depend on how wet the tracks get as he isn’t any good when it is deep and heavy.”