Handy stayer Big Mike was back in action at the Avondale trials on Tuesday and impressed his trainers ahead of a campaign that is likely to include another trip across the Tasman.
Prepared by the father and son training partnership of Craig and Shaun Phelan, Big Mike earned in excess of A$200,000 last preparation when testing the waters with a four-start Victorian campaign, which included victory in the Listed Pakenham Cup (2500m).
The six-year-old surprised his conditioners when winning his 1200m trial on Tuesday.
“We were very impressed with him,” Shaun Phelan said. “We didn’t realise how forward he was, as we haven’t done that much galloping with him this time in.”
Phelan said the son of Don Eduardo would likely contest the Gr.2 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) at Ellerslie on April 20 before a trip to Brisbane is considered.
“His rating is quite high now and that is the only open handicap race he can go for and not be carrying top weight,” Phelan said.
“He might go to Queensland for the Brisbane Cup (Gr.2, 2400m), depending on how he comes up.
“We leant a lot from his last campaign in Australia. The Kiwi horses are obviously up to it and he thrived on the trip. Hence, we thought we might have a go at Brisbane in the winter.”
Meanwhile, Phelan, who only recently joined his father Craig in a training partnership, said he was hopeful that talented three-year-old Notabadidea could join his older stablemate in Queensland this winter.
Notabadidea finished third in the same 1200m heat behind Big Mike and is progressing nicely having not raced since finishing seventh in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) in October.
“He is coming up well,” Phelan said. “He had a long spell after going shin sore early as a three-year-old after the Sarten Memorial.
“He has had two trials now, just to improve his fitness, so we will be looking for a race for him soon.
“We are likely to get him over a bit of ground and it was good to get a line on him today with Opie Bosson on him in his trial.
“If he was good enough, he will go on the trip to Brisbane with Big Mike with the Queensland Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) in mind.
“Being by Highly Recommended, they seem to want a bit of sting out of the track, so we dodged the summer racing.”
Despite turning his hand to training, Phelan will still be seen in action over the jumps this season.
“I am going to ride Monarch Chimes in a steeplechase trial at Cranbourne at the end of this week and then he is aiming for Warrnambool, so I will be going to ride him there.
“We will just see what happens with Big Mike and whether we can get him to Brisbane. We will have plenty of horses racing in winter here and we might even look at taking a couple of jumpers to Victoria, so there is plenty happening, but there are enough of us to make a go of it.” – NZ Racing Desk