By Ray Hickson
Confidence spills from jockey Jim Byrne when he talks about Rothfire.
In the horse. In knowing what to expect when the gates open. In his ability to adjust to any scenario. In the fact he’s improved from his stunning first-up win.
It all paints an ominous picture for Rothfire’s rivals in the Group 1 $1m De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Take the 49-year-old’s description of Tuesday morning’s trackwork as an example.
“The other morning we worked off one and I kind of let it go, we were running home in 23 (seconds) or so, until the furlong and as soon as I asked him to engage he switches straight on,’’ he said.
“I have that much confidence in the horse’s ability you can just allow the horse to do what comes naturally.
“I’ve been really happy with him, he’s definitely on track. He’s pleased me this week, he worked up really well. I’m definitely looking forward to Saturday.”
So you can’t blame Byrne for being a little bit bullish about a horse that has won seven of his eight starts, with his only defeat coming in very muddy conditions.
Rothfire assumed favouritism for the three-year-old feature when he ran 0.13 outside the course record in winning the Group 2 Run To The Rose (1200m) two weeks ago.
He’s $1.95 with TAB and unless there’s a dramatic shift away from him the gelding is on track, if successful, to depose Denman ($2.40 in 2009) as the shortest priced Golden Rose winner.
The Run To The Rose proved to be a tactical affair and Byrne doesn’t expect the Group 1 to be any less tactical, especially with Rothfire drawing eight in the nine horse field, but he couldn’t be playing any cooler.
He expects Yardstick to want the lead but said Rothfire's Group 1 JJ Atkins win, at 1400m, showed just how unflappable the horse is and he'd be more than happy to tag a leader.
“It isn’t like we don’t know what’s going to transpire,’’ he said.
“I don’t think I’m approaching this race any different to how I approached the last one.
“He’s the sort of horse that jumps out and puts himself on speed anyway and makes his own luck. I’m more than confident that if I don’t lead I’ll be sitting outside the leader.
“He gets into that rhythm and his natural tempo gets him out of trouble. I’m not holding my breath thinking what I need to do, it’s pretty clear cut the scenario I’m in.’’
There’s an even bigger goal for Rothfire beyond Saturday’s Group 1 and that’s, of course, next month’s $15m TAB Everest where he runs in the miRunners slot.
Given a three-year-old, Yes Yes Yes, won the Everest last year there’s been plenty of attention on the young guns and Rothfire, at $7 in TAB’s Everest market, is attracting the bulk of that attention.
With trainer Robert Heathcote remaining in Brisbane, Rothfire’s preparation has been overseen by racing manager Mel Sharpe and Byrne and he says there’s been visible improvement in the horse’s condition since his first-up run and that bodes well for Saturday and the mountain they have ahead.
“He definitely looks better, he’s glowing in his coat, not that he didn’t look good first-up,’’ Byrne said.
“For mine you couldn’t have him any better. Mel was telling me he’s jumping around so he’s feeling well, getting a bit cheeky, and is definitely enjoying the Sydney weather.
“He still has to go out there and race and perform well. And he will. One thing I’m confident about is Rob’s ability to know this horse and he’ll freshen him up into the Everest.
“This situation we are in the horse has been able to do himself and get himself into the Everest. I’m more than confident he is going to go out there and do himself proud.’’
Rothfire wins the Run To The Rose on September 12
While Byrne knows Rothfire in and out, he’s become more acquainted with Strabroke winner Tyzone ahead of the Group 2 $200,000 Iron Jack Shannon Stakes (1500m).
The Shannon is being used by trainers Toby and Trent Edmonds to determine whether the mile of the TAB Epsom next week is within his range and Byrne said there was merit in his first-up run in the Theo Marks two weeks ago.
He finished ninth behind Wild Planet but Byrne said not only will the horse benefit from the run he’ll benefit from the ride.
“You wouldn’t think barrier three would be a sticky barrier but two inside me kicked up and I had to concede and go in behind,’’ he said.
“It was to the horse’s detriment because they couldn’t take me into the race.
“He’s going to compete well on Saturday. I hadn’t been on him before, I’ve ridden him work now a few times and had a sit on race day so I have a bit more confidence in knowing my horse better than I did before the first run.”
Tyzone is $15 with TAB in the Shannon and $26 in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap where he has 54kg.