2021-22 Jumps Jockey of the Year winner Shaun Phelan  Photo:

Shaun Phelan Jumping into Action

20 April 2023

Widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most talented jumps jockeys, Shaun Phelan is an avid and passionate member of the jumping community, working as a rider, trainer, and mentor. Phelan’s career is doused in gallant performances and heroic triumphs, including winning the Jumps Jockey of the Year title for the 2021-22 season.

We caught up with Shaun to chat about his favourite raceday, proudest moments and aspirations for the future. 

How do you prepare for the jumps season, both physically and mentally?
Due to the seasonal nature of jumps racing, I can find myself feeling a bit heavy during the off-season. Before the winter starts, I start running and take up a lot of other physical sports – boxing helps a lot. Changing my diet helps too. Highweights usually begin six weeks before the first jumps meeting and not only does this help the horses’ fitness, but it also ensures that riders become race day fit. Mentally, I think doing exercise works hand in hand to help clear the mind and focus on what you have coming up for the season.

What's your favourite jumps raceday on the calendar?
Definitely the Grand National Festival of Racing. It's an awesome week that everyone in the jumps fraternity gets involved with. Riccarton Park is a beautiful, big track, with lovely fences and a smooth ride.

What horse are you most looking forward to partnering with?
Not one specifically, but I’m looking forward to joining forces with Paul Nelson’s team, riding both proven and unproven horses. There will be some that were very successful hurdlers that may look to go chasing this year.

Will you be doubling as a jumps trainer as well this season?
This year we took four or five horses of our own to the jumps school at Brosnan’s. We may look at giving them a hurdle run or two this season and maybe next year dream of taking some of them to Australia.

Can you describe the feeling of riding a horse over jumps?
To compare it to a flat jockey, I would say it’s like asking a nice horse to quicken and feeling it extend underneath you. When you ask a horse to take a big stride and it gives you its all, there is no better feeling. I guess comparing it to a normal person would be like riding a jet ski or motorbike or catching a big fish. I'm just lucky I get paid to find my thrill.

How do you handle the pressure of riding in big races?
I thrive off riding at the big racedays. You know you’re on good horses and competing against good horses, so all in all it’s always something to look forward to. My only raceday pressure is making the weight!

What win has provided you with your greatest thrill in jumps racing?
Looking back, I think my greatest thrill was during the Great Northern on Tom's Myth for Mrs Browne. I was very privileged to experience that moment with Mrs Browne, carrying the famous Browne colours in an elite race over the Ellerslie hill.

What are your aspirations for the current jumps racing season?
To achieve consistent results in the Premier races and win big races in Australia.

What advice would you give someone looking to enter the racing industry?
Always expect to work hard. If you’re passionate and love the horses and game, the racing industry will repay you with plenty of thrilling experiences and opportunities.

As the temperature drops, our jumps racing stars are just warming up. Wrap up warm and get amongst the action track side. Find a raceday at loveracing.nz/lovejumps.

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