Jye McNeil received an early birthday present when Kiwi visitor Our Big Mike (NZ) produced a dashing display to claim Saturday's $300,000 Sportsbet Pakenham Cup (2500m).
Trained by Craig Phelan at Rotorua, Our Big Mike ($11) led throughout to win by two lengths and smash the track record by more than two seconds.
The previous record was held by Shampion, who won a Benchmark 64 handicap in 2:36.83 in January 2017. Our Big Mike stopped the clock at 2:34.68.
Berisha ($10) finished second, a neck ahead of Dal Harraild ($3.90 equal favourite). Fellow $3.90 equal favourite Kiwia never posed a threat, battling into seventh from his rearward settling position.
Our Big Mike (NZ) and Jye McNeil, picture Quentinjlang.com
"That's something else," Phelan said. "We thought we'd come over and target some country cups, but this is special.
"My son Shaun and his partner Emily (Farr) are jumps jockeys back home. They gave me a kick in the backside and said I had to get over here to chase the money.
"He keeps cruising at that same rate, all day."
Noel Callow was originally booked to ride Our Big Mike in the Pakenham Cup but was forced to forfeit his engagement after falling at Sandown Hillside on Wednesday.
"My thoughts are with Noel," McNeil said.
"Shaun (Phelan) 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.
"The key to today's win was that he began well. There was good speed on paper and once he got to the front I knew he'd be hard to run down.
"We got a beautiful break down along the back straight and when I quickened him up from the half-mile (800-metre mark) he sustained it."
Jye McNeil and Craig Phelan, picture Quentinjlang.com
Phelan remains open minded about Our Big Mike's immediate future.
"He was booked to go home on the plane on Tuesday, but we might have to leave him here a bit longer - the money over here is so great," Phelan said.
"We haven't thought any further than this, our heads are up in the clouds at the moment."
Our Big Mike has raced 24 times for seven wins and six placings, with the $180,000 first prizemoney of the Pakenham Cup ensuring his earnings rocketed to $301,069.
Our Big Mike is a half-brother to Oforawesome, who ran sixth in the 2011 Queensland Derby (2400m) when trained by Mick Kent.
Meanwhile, plans to take Dal Harraild to the $500,000 Group 2 Perth Cup (2400m) on January 5 have been cancelled following his Pakenham Cup placing.
McNeil and Our Big Mike, picture Quentinjlang.com