A relaxed Robert Heathcote powered a golf drive far enough down the fairway to be able to have time in-between shots to talk about Rothfire, his stable star who finished second in the 2023 Stradbroke Handicap … and, while enjoying some, brief, well-deserved down-time away from big race pressure, he was as comfortable in conversation as he was proud of Rothfire’s superb performance in Queensland’s signature race.
“He’s a superstar,” said Heathcote.
“What a great prep Rothfire has had … second (in the Listed Ascot Handicap) …. first (in the Group 2 Victory Stakes) … third (in the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup) … and third again (in the Group 1 Stradbroke). I’ll take that all day long.
“He’s in the paddock now. He’ll go to Melbourne in the Spring, and we’ll replicate the program he followed last season … that means he’ll go to The McEwen, The Moir and The Manikato and the VRC Sprint … and we are not discounting, if he stays sound and maintains his form, a trip to Dubai in March.”
Sydney is not in the mix … even though it could be argued that Rothfire has some unfinished business in the New South Wales capital.
When Rothfire suffered a very serious, career threatening injury in the Golden Rose back in September 2020 … one which thankfully he ultimately overcame (against the odds) but one which also kept him away from his ‘prime-time’ period of race action for a full twelve months … he had been heading to The Everest where he was right in the betting market.
A year later, when on the comeback trail, another injury setback forced Rothfire out of the 2021 edition of The Everest. The disappointment of the second withdrawal from The Everest was easier to take than the first, but Heathcote has confined that, and any Everest aspirations, to history.
That all now sits firmly in the past tense.
“I’ll leave The Everest to the likes of Giga Kick and I Wish I Win and all of those to duke it out,” said Heathcote.
“Sydney is always wet … and I want to keep Rothfire on tracks that suit him … and tracks that suit him are Eagle Farm, Moonee Valley and Flemington. They are firm. They are sand based and that’s what he wants.”
The Rothfire schedule, for now, only extends to that possible tilt at Dubai, a country in which Heathcote has already enjoyed international success with the mighty Buffering who won the Group 1 Al Quoz at Meydan in March 2016, but, that Stradbroke win, which has proved frustratingly elusive for the Heathcote stable … you could say it is his unfinished business … could well be an optional extra for the ‘never say die’ Rothfire who will then still only be a six-year old.
Third in the Stradbroke last year. Second this year … who’s to say he can’t complete that 3-2-1 sequence.
A bit of a stretch, you think. Maybe, but then, at one stage, so was the hope of Rothfire ever getting back to race action, let alone performing to the high level that he has done so consistently.
The one thing everyone should have learned by now is that you can never count Rothfire out of contention.
His big-hearted run in the Stradbroke, at odds of $16, was just a reminder for those who missed that memo.
Apart from Heathcote’s obvious expertise and close care of his charge, Rothfire’s large ownership group have also displayed a significant level of patience, perseverance and unwavering support for doing whatever is best for Rothfire … through those turbulent and testing times to the thrill of triumph.
It’s been quite a ride … and it is not over yet!
– RAS NewsWire