IN Racing
The Odyssey claims inaugural Remutaka Classic
Ben Foote never doubted the ability of The Odyssey, and his faith in the gelding was rewarded when he claimed the inaugural running of the $350,000 The Oaks Stud Remutaka Classic (2100m).
Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | January 21, 2024
Odyssey and Courtney Barnes winning the inaugural $350,000 The Oaks Stud Remutaka Classic Photo:Race Images

Ben Foote never doubted the ability of The Odyssey, and his faith in the gelding was rewarded when he claimed the inaugural running of the $350,000 The Oaks Stud Remutaka Classic (2100m).

The innovation race was introduced by TAB and Entain last year, aimed at gallopers with one win or less prior to the 2023/2024 racing season. A fourteen-horse field was assembled at Trentham on Saturday, including five runners that had recorded victories in the six qualifying races across the country.

Foote’s gelding was one of the remaining runners rated highly enough to gain a start, the four-year-old carrying 59.5kg under the set-weight conditions having recorded three wins in his last four starts this campaign.

Despite The Odyssey’s recent form line, the son of Zacinto started a $21 chance on the TAB tote, a late market surge for South Island mare Betty Spaghetti saw her jump the $3.90 favourite ahead of Nereus at $4.70.

In the hands of Courtney Barnes, The Odyssey was fairly away from the ace draw, but secured prime positioning early three-back the fence. While My Maebelline Girl maintained a solid tempo in front, The Odyssey travelled comfortably midfield as the field spread out during the mid-stages, before compressing ranks near the home turn.

As the 14-strong field spread wide across the Trentham straight, The Odyssey emerged through the middle and soon started a two-horse battle with Nereus, Barnes driving her charge to the line to triumph in the Classic by a head.

Final Return and Roulade were eye-catching in third and fourth, indicating the qualifying system was an effective aspect with the pair securing their place at separate Wanganui entry races.

Foote has been largely occupied of late with yearling sales and preparations, and credited The Odyssey’s performance to son Ryan, who joined him in partnership this season.

“Ryan’s done a great job, I’ve been away at the sales a bit recently and he’s been keeping his finger on the pulse. I’m really happy for him,” he said.

“This horse only had the one start over ground and he won, so when the odds came out I was a bit surprised. I don’t usually have a bet, but I did have a few dollars on him.”

Northern-based Barnes travelled to Trentham solely to partner the gelding, and Foote was delighted to see her consistency with the stable rewarded.

“She’s come down here for one ride, so I’m over the moon for her. She’s doesn’t get the best of rides, but she’s been doing a really good job for me so it’s a great result,” he said.

The victory was Barnes’ 20th for the season thus far, one that has seen her guide home two black-type winners in Matscot (Listed Spring Classic, 2000m), and the Foote’s Group Two-winning sprinter Babylon Berlin (Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint, 1200m).

Having piloted The Odyssey to all three of his career successes, making the journey down to take the ride was an easy decision for Barnes.

“It was hard not to come down with the form he’s been in, but even better to get the job done,” she said.

“He did it very tough last start and still managed to pull it off, so I was confident he could go a really good race.

“From barrier one, we got a nice trip three-back the fence. He travelled really well, I knew Chris (Dell)’s horse (Final Return) was going to take me far enough into the race, and luckily it did. When we came out in the straight he was just too good.

“I’m very grateful to Ben and Ryan, I’ve had a lot of luck as of late, so hopefully it continues. It’s good to win a nice race on a big day.”

The $175,000 winner’s purse will be largely distributed to The Odyssey’s part-owners and co-breeders Gareth Downey and Mel Gamble, with Downey a former General Manager at Kevin Hickman’s Valachi Downs Stud.

“Gareth worked everything out and we decided to go into this race a little bit fresh, so credit and thank you to him as well. He’s got the rewards,” Foote said.

The now Victorian-based couple bred the gelding out of their Group One-winning mare Macavelli Miss, a $8000 purchase out of Sydney in 2003.