Grand National winner almost missed flight to make it to track

Shaun Phelan salutes the Riccarton crowd following his Grand National Steeplechase victory aboard Upper Cut.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

Shaun Phelan salutes the Riccarton crowd following his Grand National Steeplechase victory aboard Upper Cut.

No jumps jockey would be satisfied with crashing into the track at the last fence but Shaun Phelan could at least see a silver lining.

Phelan was dislodged from High In Demand in race two at Riccarton on Saturday.

It ended his chances in the maiden hurdle but Phelan, obviously a believer that bad things come in threes, was pinning his hopes on it ending a run of bad luck that almost saw him miss his chance to make it to Christchurch.

Kina Win and Upper Cut take the final jump of the Grand National Steeplechase together.
RACE IMAGES

Kina Win and Upper Cut take the final jump of the Grand National Steeplechase together.

By the time he had ridden Upper Cut to victory in the 143rd running of the Grand National Steeplechase, Phelan could laugh off the events of the previous evening but it was no joke at the time.

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"We almost missed our flight," Phelan revealed after his Grand National heroics.

Shaun Phelan and Mark Oulaghan discuss Upper Cut's victory.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

Shaun Phelan and Mark Oulaghan discuss Upper Cut's victory.

"It was just one of those horrible day's where nothing was going right."

A double dose of car trouble, one not starting and the other having a flat battery, meant Phelan and his partner, fellow jumps jockey Emily Farr, were already pushing for time to catch their flight from Auckland Airport when they borrowed a car from fellow Waikato jockey Brendan Hutton.

"He (Hutton) is the first guy I owe a beer," Phelan said.

He was hoping the fall from High In Demand, combined with two lots of car trouble, was the three pieces of bad luck that would then turn his fortunes around. He was right.

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Grand National wins are always memorable but Saturday's victory will always mean that little bit extra for Phelan.

It was a world away from the struggles of 12-months ago when he went close to walking away from his riding career.

A punctured lung meant Phelan was unable to fly to Christchurch to watch the 2016 Grand National Steeplechase, let alone ride in it and he was also nursing a fractured shoulder blade and a couple of fractured ribs.

He suffered the injuries when he fell from Tom's Myth in the 2016 Wellington Steeplechase.

Had it not been for the support and influence of his father Craig Phelan and Farr, the 25-year-old believes he would have quit.

"This is pretty special, it's unreal," Phelan said following Upper Cut's victory.

But even Phelan, who won the 2014 edition of the race aboard Eric The Viking, doubted if he and Upper Cut would be able to fight off the brave Kina Win in the final 200m to claim Saturday's victory.

"It wasn't until we crossed the line that it really hit me that we had it," Phelan said.

The Sabin Kirkland-trained Kina Win found the front for a short time following the final jump but Upper Cut found another gear to claim the win by one and a quarter lengths.

With rides at Te Aroha on Sunday, the celebrations had to be kept ice for 24 hours, but not even a $300 fine for a celebratory gesture prior to the winning post or a warning for shaking hands with Kina Win's jockey Stuart Higgins whilst pulling up after the race could dampen the mood.

To add to what was already a special family day on Saturday, Craig Phelan trained Worthiswaitngold to victory in the last race at Pukekohe.

 - Stuff

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