Exciting prospect Big Mike has provided trainer Craig Phelan with a pleasant dilemma after adding to his burgeoning record with a convincing victory in the last race of the day at Te Rapa on the weekend.
The lightly raced Don Eduardo five-year-old made it win number four from just 15 starts when he landed a betting plunge with a bold front running performance over 1600m. The win justified the confidence Phelan has in his charge who has tested his patience despite compiling such a handy record in a short space of time.
“He’s taken his time to come to it, but I think the penny has finally dropped now,” said Phelan.
“We’ve always had an opinion of him, but he’s been a little hard to place as he doesn’t like the ground too firm or too deep. He actually ticked a box for us on Saturday as that is the first time he has won on a track as good as that.”
Phelan has been prepared to wait for his charge to mature into his lanky frame, especially after receiving advice from experienced rider Trudy Thornton after she rode him at Ellerslie in December last year.
“Trudy got off him that day and told us to keep him away from the really firm tracks but to keep the faith as she believed he had the ability to win a really good race when he struck the right surface,” he said.
“That was what we needed to hear as it backed up our thinking, so we put him aside with the aim of getting him ready for something better during this campaign.
“We had thought about the Rotorua Cup but that’s come up a little too soon. I’m not too fussed about missing it as we can afford to pick and choose where we go and there is plenty more to come during the winter and into the spring.
“We might even take a look at what’s coming up in Brisbane as there are a number of options during their carnival that has just kicked off.”
Phelan was also quick to praise the efforts of rider Jonathan Riddell who produced a positive ride to overcome a wide barrier draw on Saturday.
“Leading into the race I was very confident he could win but when he drew the outside I started to worry about whether he could overcome it in what was a tidy field,” he said.
“Jonathan told me he was going to be very positive out of the gates and when he got him across to the fence I knew he would be hard to catch.
“What we need now is to get some back-type with him. His dam is in foal to Jakkalberry so if he can do the business it will just keep on adding value to the family.” - NZ Racing Desk
Big Mike wins the last race at Te Rapa on Saturday