By Ray Hickson
It’s the second chance connections of Rothfire probably thought they’d never have but thanks to new TAB Everest slot holder James Kennedy the star Queenslander can set his sights on sprinting’s highest peak once again.
Kennedy, executive chairman of the Kennedy Luxury Group, purchased the GPI Racing slot earlier this year and speaking on SEN Track on Saturday he said he’s one-eyed about his desire to win the $15m TAB Everest (1200m) on October 16 and in Rothfire he’s confident he has found a horse that can.
Of course it’s a punt to lock in a horse who hasn’t raced since suffering what could have been a career ending sesamoid injury in last year’s Golden Rose but Kennedy left no stone unturned before making his move on Robert Heathcote’s stable star.
He sent Kennedy Racing’s vet Ben Mason, who was the vet for Heathcote’s former superstar Buffering, to go over the four-year-old and got the thumbs up.
“Ben has seen many, many Group 1 horses up close and knows exactly what he’s looking for and his report to me was he’s an exceptional athlete,’’ Kennedy said.
“We looked at several contenders and ultimately we want to win and we’ve got to find a horse we think can. I think we have in Rothfire.
“It’s a fantastic story, from where that horse has come from to come back to where he is.”
Rothfire, $11 in TAB’s all-in Everest market, has shown his readiness for a return in next Saturday’s Group 2 $500,000 The Shorts (1100m) at Royal Randwick with two slick barrier trial wins.
Kennedy said in making his move before Rothfire returns he considered how many horses he felt could win the TAB Everest and in believing the Queenslander is one of them didn’t want to miss out.
“If you think about the Classique’s (Legend), Masked Crusader and Nature Strips who have already been selected I would think there’s not many horses that could show up and beat horses of that magnitude,’’ he said.
“Ultimately I thought if I wait for the Shorts and he puts in the performance I expect him to I might have a tougher time getting him and competing with the slot holders.”
Heathcote said he couldn’t be happier with Rothfire, who had a gallop between races at Doomben on Saturday, as far as his condition and soundness is concerned and is looking forward to getting his second Everest shot.
Last year, as a three-year-old, he was secured by MiRunners following a dominant Run To The Rose win but after months of rehabilitation Heathcote is confident he can show he’s lost none of his ability.
“I’m comfortable that I’ve put on a fair bit of pressure this last month and he’s come through in great order,’’ he said.
“There’s always going to be that element of risk or doubt until he is under the extreme pressure of a race. He has that X-Factor and if he is right he can win.
“From the day he got injured I said we’ll get him back, we’re going to aim high, we’re going to take them all on and prove to everybody that not only he’s back but that he still has that Group 1 ability he had prior to the injury.”
Six of the 12 slots in the TAB Everest have now been secured and Rothfire joins Nature Strip (Chris Waller Racing), Masked Crusader (Whitby and Werrett), Lost And Running (TAB), Classique Legend (Bon Ho) and Gytrash (Inglis) in the field.