Image: Bruno Cannatelli
Team 2 McEwen Stakes winner Rothfire is good to get into Group 1 Moir shares in Moonee Valley on Friday night.
Coach Robert Heathcote confirmed: “The horse has become superhuman. “I was going to take him to The Valley on Monday, but it was a very heavy road…so I didn’t.
“I galloped this morning in Flemington. Damien Lane rides him and the report he gives after the gallop is, for him, the best it can be. He is a man of few words and very reserved when he speaks. He said, ‘the horse gives me a lovely feeling…he’s a little concerned…but he’s done all I want him to and I’ll go into the race with confidence. that the horse will race well.’
“It was a very brilliant report.
“Obviously there are horses to beat in Moir, like Paulele and Zoustyle… good horses,” continued Heathcote, “but I’m happy to take them instead of joining the Nature Strip and Eduardo and Mazu… the the head of the line.”
Moir Stakes is the next step in a truly incredible Rothfire saga…with a second Group 1 win that not so long ago would have been considered too far-fetched, is now almost tantalizing.
“It was obviously a good story… and that’s why there was so much emotion when he won the McEwen award at Moonee Valley,” said Heathcote.
On the day the River Fire lit up Brisbane (September 3), Rothfire exploded in Moonee Valley, creating fireworks of his own, to cement his comeback with a spectacular win in Group 2, albeit doesn’t reach the elite level, but certainly still loses his connection to a rare degree of celebration.
Heathcote has been through it all… and more… with Rothesay’s talented son, now a 5-year-old boy, his career seems to have come to an end after the horrific injury he suffered in September of last year. 2020, in the run-up to what will be arguably his best shot in Everest.
The injury… it was career-threatening… and the recovery, aided by a tremendous team effort, both well documented, but it’s still interesting to get Heathcote’s thoughts at the time. At this point, two years on from that moment when he was essentially injured as a result of Rothfire getting that injury during the Golden Rose run at Rosehill on September 26, 2020.
“My confidence going into the race (McEwen) was very high,” explained Heathcote. “Let me tell you, when I ride a horse with my golf buddy, which I did with Rothfire, it’s better to win, otherwise I’ll have to find a new golden club for me couldn’t deal with the ribs.”
That confidence comes from Rothfire’s progressive runs in Doomben 10 000, Kingsford-Smith and Stradbroke (all in Group 1)… a workload that Rothfire handled well, but still a trail scars Heathcote carries from traumatic events in his past that he needs some solitude to see McEwen Stakes on.
When Buffering famously won the Al Quoix championship for Heathcote in Dubai, there was footage of Heathcote and his foreman Mel Sharpe cheering the Queensland champion home, with Heathcote saying… “he’s coming to Mel… he he’s going to MEL… HE’S COMING TO MEL”… before the frenzy of celebration that erupted between all the connections.
This time… while the results were a joy, watching the race was a very different matter for Heathcote.
“I was very confident, but at the same time very nervous,” admitted Heathcote. “I actually watched the race alone, away from everyone. I was in the alley. I can only see the big screen.
“It was just a quiet moment of hope and anticipation… but, even though Rothfire is well and back in top condition… the glow in his coat, his eyes twinkling… I am now always have this fear whenever he does something.
“I was traumatized by the circumstances in which Rothfire was injured. One veterinarian said he would not return to racing. We brought him back… but the fear from that trauma, at least to an extent, stayed with me.
“Thankfully, everything went well at Moonee Valley with the trip perfectly executed and Damien Lane’s level of professionalism worthy of a special mention.
“He went on the pitch without showing off. He handed me the saddle and said, ‘this is how I see the race going. It was the perfect word, and then he went out and executed the plan perfectly.
“When Rothfire returned, he was unharmed. He was not angry. He is super fit. His demeanor is amazing. He’s been like that since day one.
“The best composite example of a Rothfire is if you go back to a run at Eagle Farm. He entered the encirclement. Rain. They have to be back at the counter in twenty minutes. Then they come back out again and a person wearing a belt gets kicked and they need an ambulance.
“Then they went to the top where there was another delay… and Rothfire never looked back. When he was in rehabilitation as well as with Shannon Betts at Emeran Park, he was a good patient, well behaved, responsible. That attitude can go a long way and it has certainly helped Rothfire with everything he’s been through. “
“Going on, the program I had put on Rothfire was the perfect one for him,” Heathcote continued, “especially now that he has ticked box number one… the ability to handle Moonee Valley. He did it and won Group 2 and did everything well.
“Followed by the $1 million Moir Stakes in Moonee Valley on Friday night and then the plan for the $2 million Manikato a month later. For me, it’s the right strategy…to give space to his runs, keep him fresh and keep him happy and we will all reap the benefits.
“And this is another thing. There’s a bonus…if you run in Manikato and don’t win, but you win McEwen Stakes…if you then go to the Darley Champions Sprint and win the top $1 million bonus plus a $3 million prize la- money for that race.
“So to answer any questions about running in The Everest, we don’t have to share those prize money for those races I mentioned with anyone…and more importantly, while Everest is fun and a great concept and one that can be very intriguing, you will still be up against the likes of Nature Strip, Eduardo, Masked Raider and others… the best sprinters , while one could argue that Manikato and Darley may not have the best sprinters… so it might be wise to cut your fabric accordingly.
Moir Stakes is over 1000m, a distance that Rothfire is unbeaten in winning 4/5 matches. Manikato stepped up to the 1200m test with Darley also competing for the same distance.
So, between now and November 5, when the Darley Sprint gets underway at Flemington, it will be a pivotal moment for the Rothfire.
Heathcote has coached Buffering, who won multiple Horse Of The Year in Queensland, making his own Moir Stakes win races in 2012, 2014 and 2015… and he is also a McEwen Stakes winner back in the year. 2011… so Moir Stakes was very happy to stomp in place for Heathcote.
Buffering is famous for his fighting qualities on the track, where he met and overcame challengers with the heart of a champion.
It may have taken place in a very different context, but few can doubt the fact that Rothfire has demonstrated similar and considerable strength in meeting and overcoming its own severe challenges and in In that sense, it would be fitting if he could name himself. alongside Buffering as a Moir Staking winner.
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