A late pick-up ride provided Jye McNeil with an early 24th birthday present and brought the long-range, lucrative plan of New Zealand trainer Craig Phelan to fruition when tough Kiwi stayer Our Big Mike took out the $300,000 Pakenham Cup on Saturday.
The six-year-old gelding not only toughed it out to beat a good field by two lengths, he broke the track record — running 2min34.68sec. 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 expecting it here in Aussie.”
McNeil, who turns 24 on Sunday, secured the mount after Noel Callow was unable to ride after suffering a nasty fall at Sandown on Wednesday, though he has been released from hospital and got the all-clear from scans.
“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 (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 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’,” Craig Phelan said.
“I owe them a big thank you.”
FROGGY HOPS TO IT IN ORIGIN SERIES
Craig Newitt followed instructions to be patient which gave him and Tasmania a second win the Origin Jockeys Series at Doomben.
The series being contested by six teams over two days and five heats. Newitt won the third heat on Cabin Fever on Friday and made it a double when Sophie’s Gold Class ($8.50) beat Nashville Skyline ($51) by 1-3/4 lengths. It lifted Tasmania, who were $8 outsiders at the state of the series, into the lead.
Sophie’s Gold Class has been most consistent for trainer Debbie Newham and owner Lindsay Gallagher in his six starts.
“I bought her as a yearling and yes, we have taken our time,” Gallagher said. “Patience is not just a game of cards and we told Craig to hold her up for a final run in the straight which he has done.”
IN A NUTSHELL
Prominent Hong Kong owner Simon Kwok plans to invest further in Australian racing after Beauty Way turned in a strong performance to win the David Bourke Memorial Hcp at Pakenham.
Kwok, who has short-priced favourite Beauty Generation running in the Hong Kong Mile tonight, sent Beauty Way to Grahame Begg, via New Zealand. And they have had instant results at the horse’s first start in this country.
Backed into $3.60, the six-year-old gelding has now won five races in four countries — England (twice), Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.
“I’ve only had him for a couple of weeks,” Begg said.
“He would have come to Australia earlier, but the quarantine laws meant they had to go to a neutral country (for six months), so he spent some time in New Zealand.”
MARVEL MEECH CONTINUES RICH FORM
Linda Meech gave a trademark masterclass of front-running rides in booting home two of the first three winners on Pakenham Cup Day. She kicked off the day with a win on impressive Zoustar colt Star Fall, who appears set for a nice summer campaign for the Ciaron Maher-David Eustace stable.
Meech backed it up with a similarly bold performance on Angelic Spirit for the Trent Busuttin-Natalie Young yard.
Eustace said he was “a little surprised” with how Star Fall had returned to racing.
“He is Magic Millions (horse), so there is the possibility he could run in the sprint (in Queensland). But that would probablybe going too hard, too soon,” Eustace said.
Busuttin said they would keep pushing ahead with Angelic Spirit, hoping to snare another Saturday metro victory during the summer.
CURRIE KUDOS HIS SMART BOSS
Luke Currie asked Tony McEvoy if he had made a rare mistake when the jockey noted Laure Me In wasn’t a scratching for the Pakenham meeting. After all, the four-year-old gelding had finished a luckless second at Sandown only three days earlier.
But Currie says he should have known better. “He had that plan going into Wednesday and it is an amazing effort from him to have that vision …
“It’s a credit to the team to have him on the three-day turnaround and to win.”
DID YOU SEE/HEAR?
Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen timed his run to perfection in returning from overseas — having bought five broodmares, including a half-sister to unbeaten two-year-old Brooklyn Hussle. He arrived in time to see Mr Quickie, the horse he part-owns with Peter Moody and Wylie Dalziel, win the fourth at Pakenham. He returned on Friday to ensure he was back to see Runaway in the Pakenham Cup, though the horse ran a disappointing 10th.
DOUGLAS LANDS IN HOT WATER
Clayton Douglas received an 11-meeting suspension for causing interference for careless riding on runner-up Champagne Cocktail in the third race. That horse caused interference to Craig Williams’ mount It’s A Myth, who flashed home for fourth.
Williams went to view the stewards’ vision, with the idea of protesting. But he deemed it wouldn’t have been sufficient for stewards to change the placings.
Ben Allen was also suspended for 12 meetings after pleading guilty to excessive whip use on Mr Quickie, given his past record.
HORSES TO FOLLOW
It’s A Myth: Luckless fourth. Struck inference at the 200m.
Miss Wahoo: Finished fast, deserves to win again soon.
Creedence: Might have cost himself the race by laying out just before the line.
TAB BIG BETS
Star Fall didn’t have support like the other favourites but that didn’t stop him from leading throughout to win the John Duff & Co 3YO BM70 Handicap (1000m).
The Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained runner was $4-$5 on the day and was the third best supported runner, however, what the colt held was nothing compared with the top two in the market.
Symphonette ($4.40-$3.10) was hammered into favouritism and was easily the best tried runner after being $8 on Wednesday. All In Brawl ($3.50-$4.60) was favourite for most of the betting but lost that title in the final hour or two prior to the jump.
Star Fall beat Divine Mr Tycoon ($8.50) with Symphonette finding the line well for third.
BETS: Star Fall $2000 @ $5 TWICE
BETS: Symphonette $1000 @ $3.40, $1000 @ $3.30, $4000 @ $3.10, $2000 @ $3.20 TWICE
TAB dodged a bullet in the Hanson BM70 Handicap (1600m) when Laure Me In landed the money.
While the Tony McEvoy runner was $4.20-$3.70, all the big money was riding with the favourite Casino Fourteen which was $2.80-$2.20 before jumping a $2.40 chance.
Casino Fourteen hit the front on straightening but couldn’t hold off the finishing burst of Laure Me In, with Luke Currie timing his run to perfection.
Honeywine ($34) and North Afrika ($16) filled the minors in front of Casino Fourteen which tired late.
BETS: Laure Me In $1000 @ $3.80, $1100 @ $3.70, $1000 @ $3.70
BETS: Casino Fourteen $8000 @ $2.40, $4000 @ $2.40, $2000 @ $2.40 MULTIPLE TIMES
Angelic Spirit ($4.80-$5.50) was the one the late money came for and it proved spot on in the Fulmen Park F & M BM78 Handicap (1400m).
Rated a treat by Linda Meech out in front, Angelic Spirit never looked likely to be run down as she defeat Champagne Cocktail ($26-$18) and the favourite, Miss Wahoo ($4.60).
Miss Wahoo went around as the most popular runner in front of Its A Myth, however, the latter held less than half the total that the favourite did. Of the rest, Another Bullseye began the day at $4 but drifted alarmingly out to $8.
BETS: Angelic Spirit $1500 @ $5, $1000 @ $5
The move for Mr Quickie began earlier in the week and the Darren Weir runner didn’t let his supporters down.
Opening at $4 on Wednesday, Mr Quickie was one of the first horses backed when the market first opened. The early support saw him bottom out at $3.30 but by jump time, $3.90 was on offer.
Ben Allen made his move with about 800m to travel, coming up three-wide in pursuit of the tearaway leader in Cleo’s Poet.
Hitting the front on straightening, Mr Quickie had to repel the challenge of several horses in winning by a nose. Creedence ($6.50-$5) was best tried to beat it and probably should have had it not been erratic down the straight.
Azurite ($151) ran third a massive odds.
The quinella pairing were the two best tried runners in the event and were responsible for 55 per cent of the total investment.
BETS: Mr Quickie $1800 @ $3.90, $1500 @ $3.80, $1000 @ $3.80 MULTIPLE TIMES
BETS: Creedence $1000 @ $6 TWICE, $2000 @ $5.50
In one of the most open betting affairs of the day, Prezado proved too good in winning the Nasahi AAC Plate (1000 metres).
The Matt Ellerton & Simon Zahra-trained runner hovered around the $8-$8.50 mark for most of the betting but got to as much as $10 and attracted some interest at the eachway quote.
Eurack ($4.60) went around with the most money while Prairie Fire was next best supported and actually started $4.20 favourite after being backed from $12 on Wednesday.
Others to have had some backing included Matty ($7.50-$6.50) and Saint Valorem ($12-$17). Manolo Blahniq, which ran third, was a noted drifter going from $5 out to $13.
BETS: Prezado $500 e/w @ $10/$3.20, $500 @ $10, $600 x $200 e/w @ $9/$2.90, $500 x $1,000 e/w @ $8/$2.70, $400 e/w @ $8/$2.70
BETS: Eurack $1000 @ $4.60, $1,000 @ $4.40
BETS: Prairie Fire $2000 @ $4.60 TWICE, $1500 @ $4.60
One of the best moves all day was on Beauty Way which landed the money in the Schweppes David Bourke Memorial Handicap (1600m).
The Grahame Begg-trained runner was $7 this morning but was crunched into half that quote at the jump, starting a $3.50 equal favourite along with Fastnet Latina.
Aided by a great run in transit, fourth and stalking the speed, jockey Luke Currie didn’t have to do much as the gelding raced clear in the straight to defeat Torgersen ($4.80-$6.50) and Snoano ($71).
BETS: Beauty Way $2000 @ $3.80 TWICE, $9500 @ $3.70, $2000 @ $3.50, $1,650 @ $3.50
BETS: Fastnet Latina $3000 @ $4.60
Our Big Mike led throughout at double figure odds to win the Pakenham Cup (2500m).
The Darren Weir runner was pretty solid in betting and attracted some nibbles at the $10, bottoming out at $8.50 before getting out to $10 again.
Rated a treat by Jye McNeil, the former Kiwi raced right away from his rivals to beat Berisha ($14-$10) and the one-time favourite Dal Harraild ($2.50-$2.80-$3.90).
Most of the money in this race was with Kiwia. Such was the weight of support for the Weir horse that it overtook Dal Harraild for favouritism and jumped at $3.80. It held more than double the amount of money than any other runner.
BETS: Kiwia $5500 @ $3.80, $5000 @ $3.70
BETS: Dal Harraild $2000 @ $3.90, $3000 @ $3.20
BETS: Pilote Dessai $3000 @ $8.50
Amadeus had some support to win the VOBIS Gold Bullion (1400m), however, punters generally looked elsewhere.
The Mick Kent runner was$8.50-$7 on the day, however, held only a fraction of the money that So Si Bon and Mr Money Bags did.
Mr Money Bags ($5) charged home for second in front of Jesta Dreams ($21) while So Si Bon, the $3.80 favourite, was close up in fourth.
Theanswermyfriend defied a big betting drift to win the final event on the card.
The son of High Chaparral went from $5-$9.50 after being as low as $4.40 on Wednesday.
Fighting hard under the urgings of John Allen, Theanswermyfriend held off the fast-finishing Princess Of Queens ($7) and the well tried Sylpheed ($6-$5.50). Toy Boy, which was specked at big odds, was $34-$9.50 and wound up fourth.
BETS: Theanswermyfriend $500 e/w @ $9.50/$3.10, $1000 @ $7
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