Rothfire needs spring-loaded launch to Everest
Early spring results will be crucial to Rothfire's chances of securing a slot in this year's The Everest after trainer Rob Heathcote reiterated he is happy to head there should the opportunity be afforded.
Heathcote has discussed the possibility of an Everest start with miRunners, who have secured a slot this year.
MiRunners is selling 1000 shares at $880 each (they are permitting up to 10 people per share) to the public and to this point, one third of the micro shares have been bought by Queenslanders, perhaps anticipating a local representative.
MiRunners chief executive Steve Brown said Rothfire had been mentioned in preliminary discussions, but ultimately the decision would come down to an expert panel, in addition to a vote from shareholders.
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The panel comprises ratings expert Daniel O'Sullivan, SKY Racing's mounting yard expert Lizzie Jelfs, former top jockey Tye Angland and international cricketer Mark Waugh.
Heading into last Saturday's Group 1 J.J. Atkins at Eagle Farm, Rothfire had two of the top four ratings in Australia this season on O'Sullivan's scale.
He will assign an Atkins rating, but early estimates suggest it will be at least the equal of his two previous 103 peaks, if not a touch higher.
"The fact he did it at 1400m shows there's a lot of substance to the horse, he's not just a jump and run type," O'Sullivan said.
"From an Everest perspective, they are the traits we are looking for."
But it's highly unlikely the panel will be making any recommendations to miRunners just yet.
Nature Strip, who runs in the TAB slot, is the benchmark sprinter for now, with his best being in the 109-111 range.
O'Sullivan said ideally their preferred candidate would have shown the ability to run a 105 rating when it returned in the spring.
"Outside of Nature Strip, a lot of these top sprinters are either retired or showing they are past their best," he said.
"We are looking for fresh blood, but you can't get too carried away at this stage of the year.
"I would want to see how they come back at three, say in early races like the San Domenico or Roman Consul Stakes.
"If Rothfire could come back from a spell and win one of those early races and post a similar number to what we've come to expect, he's going to come under serious consideration."
Doubtland and Masked Crusader are other lightly raced types with an appealing profile.
Jockey Jim Byrne has no doubt Rothfire can be a Group 1 player in the spring.
"I think he will measure up to those sort of horses," he said.
"He's the best two-year-old we have in Queensland, the next step is to go and match it on their level."
RIDERS LAP UP SENIOR MOMENT
Two of the senior statesmen of the Queensland jockey ranks were reflecting on their climb back to Group 1 winners aboard Tyzone and Rothfire.
Robbie Fradd could not recall his first Group 1 win, other than saying it was when "there was only black and white television", while Saturday marked 21 years since Jim Byrne won his first Group 1 on Adam in the Stradbroke Handicap.
Tyzone's Stradbroke for Toby and Trent Edmonds was Fradd's first Group 1 success since winning a trio of top level races in South Africa in 2014.
"I was so happy that it was that race to be my first Group 1 in Australia. The flagship race of Queensland," Fradd said.
"Queensland is my home and this is where I'm going to remain. It's a lovely state.
"Tyzone is such a warrior. He's a tough bugger and he deserved that win."
Fradd had little trouble making the 52.5kg impost for Tyzone and took great delight in goading some of his fellow riders who had to do it much tougher.
"I said to Jimmy Orman, 'you better use a breast plate, because your silks are going to slip off.' He was that light," Fradd told Radio TAB's Past the Post. "I think Dale Smith's mouth was dryer than Moses' sandals.
"You've got to do it if you want to ride in the big ones. It's a hell of a sacrifice and I have a lot of respect for guys who lose a lot of weight week in week out. Thank goodness, I'm very fortunate."
Byrne was also counting himself fortunate after escaping injury from a jumpout fall earlier in the week.
"That was crazy. All I could think about was 'not again.' I came home and was abusing my manager," he said.
"My wife wanted to take me to the hospital, but I had a magnesium bath, anti-inflammatories and I was all right. The shoulder wore the brunt of the fall. Fortunately I got through it okay."
Byrne, who last tasted Group 1 success in the same race on Capital Gain three years ago, reflected on the long road back since breaking his leg in December.
"The last injury was a pretty bad one and you weren't sure to what extent you were going to get back," he said. "I worked so hard to get back and then to be told I needed another operation was pretty devastating.
"Fortunately Rob (Heathcote) had faith in me and I was able to get back in time for this horse."
Darby McCarthy was announced as one of nine Queensland Greats at the weekend, just a month after his death.
The trailblazing jockey, whose career stretched to international borders, was posthumously honoured by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
The awards recognise and celebrate extraordinary achievements and lifetime contributions by those who call the Sunshine State home and are announced on Queensland Day each year.
It was fitting the announcement came on Stradbroke day, as it was a race McCarthy won three times, on Mullala (1963), Cele's Image (1964) and Castanea (1966).
McCarthy was one of 13 children and was born in the sandhills outside of Cunnamulla in western Queensland.
"Every one of our Queensland Greats has worked to make other people's lives better, some after overcoming incredible adversity themselves," Palaszczuk said.
"They display strength, courage, ingenuity, talent and determination - all of the things that continue to make Queensland what it is."
Originally published as Rothfire needs spring-loaded launch to Everest