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  4. Schweida dreams big with QTIS star The Odyssey

Schweida dreams big with QTIS star The Odyssey

By Jordan GerransDSC-8994.jpg

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.”

The Odyssey

T2DX4405.jpgComing back from a quick break following Magic Millions Day, The Odyssey, who is known as “Jay” around the stables, trialled over 840m on Tuesday at Doomben.

In what his trainer called a soft trial, he finished just under a length behind stable-mate Racecourse Road in third. 

“He looks great, Steph gave him a soft trial on Tuesday as it still a few weeks away,” Schweida said.

“I have asked for permission to gallop him between races a week before, the clubs are usually accommodating with that.”

Thornton had plenty left in the tank under her in the trial.

“He trialled super, I was really happy with him,” Thornton said.

“He had a nice easy trial going into Sydney as it still is a few weeks away.

“He knows when it is a trial, he does not go over the top and I could not be happier with how he felt.”

The 21-year-old Thornton has developed a close bond with The Odyssey, he has given her some of the biggest thrills of her racing career so far.

And, in turn, she says it is a privilege to be able to sit on his back on race day.

“He is very special to a lot of people, he is very funny and his own things he likes to do before a race,” Thornton said.

“His biggest thing is that once he gets into the barriers, he shows he is ready to go and it is those things that make him who he is.

“To be honest, he is an absolute kid pony as well, he is a perfect gentleman that loves what he does and loves to race."

The Challenge Stakes, which will be run on March 6, 2021 at Randwick for $500,000 at Group 2 level, will be The Odyssey’s first task before The Galaxy a fortnight later.