Shaun Phelan could set a record at Te Rapa today for the shortest ever celebration of a debut training success.

Because if the popular Waikato horseman secures his first training win with Big Mike in the opening race there won't be much time for handshakes, pictures and celebratory drinks.

Because Phelan the trainer will revert back to being Phelan the jumps jockey just a few minutes later and thinks he can ride the winner of the second race.

That is the new dual-role career path Phelan has chosen after finally entering into a training partnership with father Craig.


He was already a huge part of their training team but now both father and son have their name on the accounts and are hunting their first win together. "We went into partnership a couple of months ago and we haven't got a win yet," says Phelan. But Big Mike could change all that even under 60kg in the open handicap which kicks off Waikato Steeples day.

Big Mike pulled off one of the richest wins by a New Zealand galloper in Australia in the last two years when he won the A$327,000 Pakenham Cup in December and is on trial today for a return trip to Australia for races like the Brisbane and Caloundra Cup. While finishing last in the Easter at his latest outing wouldn't initially have you rushing to take the $2.50 quote about him today, Phelan says that was human error.

"We stuffed up putting him in the Easter," he admits.

"We rolled the dice but the track was too hard and he looked after himself when he started to feel it."

The Phelans made that up to Big Mike by giving him plenty of TLC, firstly with some beach training courtesy of Catherine Cleghorn at Waiuku while he even spent much of the last week at Ruakaka as a travelling companion and was able to gallop on the track and the beach.

Shaun Phelan. Photo / File
Shaun Phelan. Photo / File

"He is really well and while the race will improve him I think in this field he can win even with the 60kgs," says Phelan. While Zacada managed to carry 60kg to win at Rotorua last Saturday successes with that topweight have become increasingly rare, but Big Mike has the advantage of being, well, big. So if he races up to his best form a bit of Vinnie Colgan magic could get him home, with import Al Haram a logical danger.

While Dad unsaddles Big Mike, Shaun will be jumping on the back of El Fernando, who he believes can win the maiden hurdle. "He needs a better track, which he should get on Saturday and I like him a lot."

Phelan will also partner Tommyra in the Waikato Hurdles and is confident he will be in the finish while the stable lines up talented 3-year-old Notabadidea in the last race.


He looks way better than his current one-win record but will need to be today as he carries 61.5kg and cops a terrible draw.

While the Waikato Hurdles and Steeples will be today's signature races, the three-year-old set weights and penalties (race four) is a beauty with plenty of group race performers adding some extra spice to the flat programme.

Crossover day

• Waikato Steeples day is the first major jumps racing meeting of the winter.

• But the presence of Cup winner Big Mike and some talented 3-year-olds boost the flat programme.

• In Brisbane a strong Kiwi contingent look to continue our successful start to the Queensland carnival.