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By Graham Potter | Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Now that the paperwork has been done and the final deal done and dusted, there is not much time for the connections of Rothfire to stop and enjoy the feeling of relief at gaining a slot in the $15 million The Everest. Sure, the securing of a run in The Everest comes with a touch of real excitement and anticipation, but it also ramps up the pressure which will now start to build on a daily basis in the weeks leading up to the big race.

For all of that though, there was no happier man walking around Doomben on Saturday than Robert Heathcote, the trainer of Rothfire, after slot holder James Kennedy had confirmed he had selected Rothfire as his The Everest runner earlier in the day.

It has of course been very well documented that Rothfire suffered a serious injury which threatened his career when on the same The Everest path last year and, while it would be an achievement to have a runner line up in The Everest on any occasion, given what happened to Rothfire over the last twelve months makes his presence in this year’s field even more special.

“I’ve used the word ‘miracle’ a few times to describe Rothfire being in this position,” said Heathcote. “It is a miracle Rothfire is back. There is no other way to describe it.

“A year ago, I will admit, I had a couple of flat tyres. I was feeling tired and let down on certain issues in racing up here. I hit sixty and I wondered what direction I was headed and how much air was actually left in the tyres … but we are ultimately all in this to get a good horse, and when you get one it lifts your spirits entirely.

“In this case, to have got Rothfire back to racing is just extraordinary and I’m as happy as I can be at this time.

“I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed this sort of journey with a very good horse before in Buffering who took me to a Group 1 win in Dubai, so I have been here to some degree before … of course, The Everest is something else again … but I want to enjoy the experience to the maximum and I am pumped about what a is happening for us right now.

“Having said that though, after enjoying that brief sense of relief at securing the run after all of the negotiations involved … you have got to celebrate that … the fact that I’m a realist kicks in quite quickly.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve at times and most people will know that after Rothfire’s setback last year I was pretty broken. It took me a considerable time to get over what, at the time, looked to be a potential loss of Rothfire’s career … so, as happy as I am with regard to The Everest, I’m not even going to be wanting to start imagining what might happen too far ahead of time.

“I know from past experience … one mis-step and it could all be over! That’s what we as trainers face every day when we work our horses.

“I just want to take a moment to make special mention of Phil Burguez and the advice he gave us when originally assessing Rothfire’s injury.

“Phil has been my veterinary advisor since I’ve been training here in Brisbane. Phil is a freak at what he does. He is also a no-nonsense kind of vet. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. He tells you what you need to hear … and, when Phil looked at Rothfire’s X-rays, he bluntly said to me, ‘Rob, he will it back … or he will not.’

“What he meant by that was that Rothfire had the capacity to make a full recovery from his injury and come back as the Group 1 horse he was … or he probably wasn’t going to come back at all.

“Phil said we might have been unlucky that the injury occurred, but he reiterated how very lucky we were in terms of Rothfire’s possible long-term prognosis as it could have been a lot worse … and that advice has helped carry me through the last year.

“I’ve taken it on board all of the way through and it has held me in good stead in handling Rothfire’s return.

“And, certainly not least, I also want to give credit to James Kennedy for taking a punt on us.

“So here are we are ... in The Everest.

“What would the odds have been twelve months ago on Rothfire achieving that?

"Like I say, it’s a miracle!"

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Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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