By Ray Hickson
It’s a gamble but that’s what racing and winning marquee races like the TAB Everest is all about and micro ownership group miRunners has snapped up exciting Queensland three-year-old Rothfire for next month’s $15m feature.
And it’s seemingly a match made in heaven – a gelding with 20 registered owners partnering with an Everest slot comprising of over 1000 micro slot owners.
MiRunners chief executive Steve Brown said the expert panel assembled to select the group’s Everest runner – former jockey Tye Angland, form expert Daniel O’Sullivan, along with Mark Waugh and Lizzie Jelfs - was unanimous in siding with Rothfire.
But he conceded they were forced to move earlier than intended with interest from other slot holders forcing their hand on the horse sight unseen under race pressure this spring.
“We’ve got to hope he’s a freak because that’s probably what he needs to be to win the Everest,’’ Brown said.
“He’s been the panel’s number one pick along the way, we gave all the slot holders a chance to vote and he was theirs as well.
“At the end of the day we couldn’t wait, we would have lost him.”
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Brown said the original plan was to see Rothfire make his Sydney debut in the Group 2 Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill on September 12 before locking him in.
Rothfire, winner of the Group 1 JJ Atkins (1400m) in June, has been beaten just once in seven starts and his trainer Robert Heathcote has made no secret of his desire to be at Randwick on October 17 for the richest race on turf.
The gelding turned heads in an exhibition gallop at Eagle Farm last weekend when he ran a reported 32 seconds for his last 600m.
That was on the back of a setback, from a minor stable injury, which forced him to miss a planned jump out just a few days earlier.
Aside from his promise and already imposing record, Brown said having Rothfire’s trainer on board is a huge plus for the micro owners in the slot.
“Rob is a great communicator and a huge believer in micro ownership,’’ he said.
“He treats everyone equally and is a good match in that regard.
“It’ll be a wonderful story for the sport if we can be competitive.”
The risk involved in securing a horse that hasn’t raced in Sydney yet, hasn’t met a horse like Golden Slipper winner Farnan (who he’ll clash with in the Run To The Rose) let alone ruling favourite Nature Strip isn’t lost on Brown.
The three-year-old's regular jockey Jim Byrne is also putting his faith in Rothfire as he's headed for Sydney to follow the Everest dream - when he returns home he'll have to complete 14 days quarantine so it's a big commitment.
“The good thing is Rob Heathcote is a practical guy and said if the horse doesn’t come up and isn’t up to it we won’t hold them to it,’’ Brown said.
Heathcote said Rothfire will arrive in Sydney next Thursday at John Thompson's stable at Randwick, basically ready to rock and roll, and go into the Run To The Rose two days later.
He said he's excited to have the slot locked in, and to be working with miRunners, and is confident the horse will run up to expectations in the Run To The Rose and the Golden Rose and justify the early move.
"My boy was pretty good in Brisbane, now he's got to take on the big guns. I think he can, I think I've got another Buffering,'' Heathcote said.
"I feel a sense of relief, we've done a nice arrangement with Mirunners and I'm chuffed.
H"e still has to run a good race in the Run to The Rose and Golden Rose but he won't be running a bad race the way he's going.
"They want to go into the race knowing we are a genuine chance of winning. Part of the proviso is if he didn't run up to my expectations I wouldn't want him to run in the Everest."
Rothfire is a $15 chance in TAB’s pre-noms Everest market and joins Nature Strip (TAB), Classique Legend (Bon Ho) and Gytrash (Inglis) as confirmed runners with eight slots remaining in the 12 horse field.