By Jordan Gerrans
Eagle Farm trainer Kelly Schweida does not mind planning and executing a long-term plan.
After all, he did claim three major QTIS races, the $1 million Magic Millions QTIS Open Handicap, the $300,000 QTIS Jewel 3YO and the $500,000 QTIS Jewel 2YO, in three straight years with The Odyssey.
The Odyssey is often described as the poster boy for the Queensland Thoroughbred Incentive Scheme, which provides bonuses for Queensland bred horses who can prevail in the Sunshine State.
So, without a QTIS Jewel 4YO race to target in 2021, the experienced horseman is about to look south of the border with star four-year-old The Odyssey.
He executed a detailed plan over three years to land his owners big QTIS cash.
And, while there is not QTIS cash in NSW, his plan this time revolves around the heavens.
He has the Challenge Stakes in mind early next month, before a potential tilt at The Galaxy after that, while The Odyssey is also nominated for Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes in April.
He is banking on heavy tracks and wet conditions in Sydney to play into his bloke’s hands as he takes a step up in grade and company.
“I realise it is pretty tough down there and it is a couple of levels up, and a lot of thought has gone into this, we are hoping it will rain as it normally does down there at this time of year,” Schweida said.
“He is the perfect horse: he can handle the fast tracks and the heavy, as he won on a Heavy 10 one day on the Gold Coast.
“If it rains, it brings a few of them back to us and helps us go up a bit.
“We will just chase that black type; he is still a stallion and hopefully there is more black type for him.
“If he never wins another race, he certainly has been our champion.”
Nature Strip won the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Randwick on a Soft 6 last year while I Am Excited took out the Group 1 The Galaxy on a Soft 5 surface in 2020 – so Schweida’s thinking is on the money.
The Odyssey is unbeaten on the soft, two from two, and has one win and a second placed finish on the heavy going.
Top Brisbane rider Stephanie Thornton, who has won on The Odyssey six times, will follow him south to Sydney and thinks he is up to the challenge, with the trip a perfect opportunity to show what he can do on the big stage.
“It is very exciting, I have never ridden in Sydney before,” Thornton said.
“I am very lucky to have the opportunity to go down and partner him.
“He certainly should be up to the challenge, that is for sure, it is a step up in grade and class, but he has done nothing to say he is not up to that opportunity.
“With a bit of rain, that will help us as well.”