An $8,000 purchase in 2003 has continued to pay dividends for Gareth Downey over two decades later, when the filly’s son won the inaugural $350,000 The Oaks Stud Remutaka Classic (2100m) at Trentham last Saturday.
Downey, a former General Manager of Valachi Downs Stud, relocated to take up the same role at Lindsay Park Racing in 2022, and was near speechless after watching The Odyssey charge to the post from his Australian base.
“The only trouble we’re having is coming back down to earth after all our yelling and screaming,” he said.
“It’s a genuine honour to win the first running of it, it’s such a wonderful innovation for New Zealand racing to have these races and we were just happy to have a runner, so to win was an honour.”
Downey possessed an extensive interest in the breeding and pedigree analysis throughout his life, and his first investment proved life changing when purchasing The Odyssey’s dam Macavelli Miss for $8,000 at a Sydney yearling sale in 2003.
Under the care of Cambridge conditioner Roger James, Macavalli Miss won six races and $177,000 in stakes, highlighted by a sensational victory as the $121 outsider in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) in 2006.
Following her racing career, the daughter of Vettori produced five foals for Downey and wife Mel Gamble, including seven-race winner Gauguin, and Fleetwood Maca, who was runner-up behind Oaks-winning mare Amarelihna in the 2020 Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m).
Macavalli Miss’ final foal was born in 2019, a son of Zacinto that emulated her triumph on the champagne turf on Cup Day.
“She was an incredibly special mare to us, it was a life changing experience to have her in our lives and to share her journey,” Downey said.
“She has been a very successful broodmare, she actually died very soon after foaling The Odyssey, so we’ve always had a special attachment to him because of that.
“We’ve been close to him all the way through his life, he’s a gorgeous horse, and to have him running in the Remutaka Classic on Thorndon Mile day after his mother won that felt like a real omen.
“To be cheering him down that straight, and for him to be tough and talented enough to win was indescribable really.”
The Odyssey’s late sire Zacinto has been to the fore in high-profile races already this season, particularly with the success of Crocetti, a top-line three-year-old unbeaten in six starts, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
“I was working at Valachi at the time and Zacinto stood there, so that was the immediate appeal for Macavalli Miss,” Downey said.
“We do a lot of pedigree analysis to find the right match, we loved this stallion and the mating paired really well, so it all just felt like the right thing to do.
“I think it’s a combination of the natural resources of the country in New Zealand, that makes it one of, if not the best places in the world to raise young horses. The quality of horsemanship involved in the country adds to this as well, they get the best start in life.”
Downey shared his appreciation to Ben and Ryan Foote, the father-and-son training partnership preparing The Odyssey to his four career victories from eight starts, and now more than $233,000 in stakes. Also credited with the victory was jockey Courtney Barnes, the Northern-based hoop guiding the four-year-old to all of his successes to date.
“The Foote’s are wonderful people, they are extremely good to us and to our horses. We love the association, we’ve got four with them now, all of our racehorses have been trained by them for the past two or three years,” he said.
“Courtney really deserves this as well, she has been riding this horse for all of his career and they have a special partnership.
“She may not be one of the most high-profile jockeys in the country, but she couldn’t possibly have ridden him any better and we were delighted to have her on board.”