It’s been a busy week for top jumps jockey Shaun Phelan, and he is hoping to cap it with some prestige jumping titles at the Pakuranga Hunt meeting at Te Rapa on Sunday.
Phelan nearly picked up the biggest scalp of his riding career when runner-up aboard The Cossack in the Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Ballarat last Sunday.
The top-class jumper finished second by the barest of margins to St Arnicca and Phelan admitted he thought his charge had got up for the win.
“It was a brave effort. I thought we had won it,” Phelan said. “I’m glad he put a good one in because the Aussies had written him off.”
With the taste of what could have been still fresh in his mouth, Phelan is keen to return to try and avenge their loss next year.
“Before COVID I was getting over there a fair bit. I picked up a few rides and hopefully Paul (Nelson,trainer) takes him (The Cossack) back next year and we can have a go at it again,” he said.
Back in his homeland, Phelan’s attention has swiftly turned to Te Rapa on Sunday where he will have three rides for Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal, including No Tip in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4800m).
The 11-year-old gelding finished fifth in the race last year before going on to place in the Great Northern Steeplechase (6200m), and he has been in good form this season, winning the Poverty Bay Hunt Ferguson Gold Cup (4000m) before finishing runner-up in the Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) and Wellington Steeplechase (5500m).
“He is pretty consistent in all of these races, it is just whether he can stay the trip (with top weight),” Phelan said.
“I think the weight has got to him a little bit, he is such a little horse, and he has ended up topweight quite quickly this season.
“He has been going well so hopefully that continues on Sunday.”
Phelan will also partner stablemates Suliman and Peso in their respective maiden jumping races.
“Suliman is a handy flat horse and I would say he will be a nice horse for next season,” Phelan said.
“Peso is a grand old flat horse of theirs. I did ride him in the point-to-point at the start of the season and he went well. It will be interesting to see how he measures up.”
Phelan is looking forward to reuniting with Dr Hank in The Pakuranga Hunt Sesquicentennial Open Hurdle (3200m) after committing to The Cossack in the Hawke’s Bay Hurdle (3100m).
Dr Hank finished fourth in that race behind The Cossack and he has been freshened ahead of Sunday’s feature.
“He won this race last year and I know Harvey (Wilson, trainer) backed off him when he went no good at Hawke’s Bay last start,” Phelan said.
“He goes well at Te Rapa and I knew this was the race for him, and then hopefully he can progress to the Northern.
“Harvey is happy with him. He had a good, flat run last start. He doesn’t take a lot. He usually runs his best races in his first hurdle start back.”
Phelan will also have his training cap on this Sunday when he lines-up Enchanted Elle and Magnanimous Man in the Flair Amateur Riders 2200.
“Enchanted Elle is a pretty consistent mare. She just got beaten in the Duke of Gloucester so hopefully she can go one better,” Phelan said.
“Kevin Myers is pretty hard to beat in these amateur races, he has got them pretty ready, but I think she can do it.
“With Magnanimous Man, we just missed these last couple of jumps meetings with him. We are just hoping to get a run into him to get some fitness.
“It is a fair bit of weight to carry (72.5kg), but he could run a cheeky race.”
Meanwhile, Phelan, who is in his first season of training in a solo capacity, has been pleased with the progress of his team, who have largely been based in Ruakaka over the last fortnight.
“I am just getting the feel of things now and I am looking forward to the spring. We have got a few nice young horses and we have a couple of older horses we will hopefully take down to Christchurch,” he said.
“We had the team up at Ruakaka and a couple of them trialled up well (on Tuesday). They are now a bit more forward in their prep after being up there in the good weather and on the beach.”
Tannahill was particularly eye-catching when winning his 1050m heat in the hands of stable apprentice Kelsey Hannan.
“I am very happy with how he trialled. The trip up to Ruakaka has really brought him on,” Phelan said.
“We have nominated him for the Coupland’s Mile (Gr.2, 1600m), so that is going to be his aim. He loves a real firm track.”
The five-year-old gelding could be joined on his trip south by Golden Darci, who was runner-up in his 1050m heat.
“Golden Darci was beaten in his trial but we have got a big rap on him,” Phelan said.
“We are looking at targeting the Hawke’s Bay Guineas (Gr.2, 1400m) and onto the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m).”
A trip to Christchurch could also be on the cards for stablemate Hit The Road Jack, however, Australian targets are also in the offing if he performs well at Ruakaka next week.
“Hit The Road Jack is going to race at Ruakaka next week and we are going to contemplate whether we take him to Australia for some Country Cups or just keep aiming toward the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m),” Phelan said.