It was all thumbs up for Brisbane trainer Rob Heathcote as he got the barrier draw he wanted for Rothfire in Saturday’s G1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot.
Rothfire drew a perfect three in Tuesday night’s barrier draw and Heathcote believes it will give champion jockey Damien Oliver with plenty of options in the $1.5 million sprint.
“That was perfect,” Heathcote said on Tabradio.
“Ben Dorries from the Courier Mail called me before the draw and said what barrier do you want and I said three.
“And lo and behold that’s what we got, it’s definitely an advantage, it goes without saying.
“It opens up a few extra options for Ollie (Damien),depending on how much pressure is in the race.
“He has good gate speed and the way the draw has fallen it certainly favours us a bit.
“If someone wants to take us on I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a trail.”
Heathcote has a strong affinity with Perth’s major sprint race after winning it twice previously with Buffering (2015-13).
He believes Rothfire has the right profile and credentials to give him a third success in the Group 1 event.
“I feel he is the right horse for a race like this,” Heathcote said.
“He’s good around the bend, races up on the speed and is genuinely tough.
“His form coming out of Melbourne is fantastic.
“I’m not going into the race super confident, just confident knowing my horse will race well.
“He has settled in beautifully, he’s a beast of a horse and a good type to look at.
“If he’s maintains his form he will be in the finish.”
Rothfire scored an emotional comeback win in the G2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley in September, his first after spending a year on the sidelines with injury.
The five-year-old gelding arrived in the west after he ran eighth in the Champions Sprint (1200m) at Flemington, finishing just over a length from Roch ‘N’ Horse.
The elite G1 sprint included runner-up Nature Sprint, Everest winner, Giga Kick (5th) and Winterbottom Stakes rivals The Astrologist and Paulele ,who ran sixth and 11th respectively.
Rothfire heads the Tabtouch Winterbottom market, firming into $4.60, after the barrier draw.
Top local sprinter and 2020 Winterbottom Champion, Elite Street, is on the second line at $5.50.
Vilana is next at $6.50 with Perth mare, Miss Conteki, prepared by Simon Miller, $9, just ahead of Paulele at $10.
Vilana and stable mate Paulele, two starters for James Cummings, have drawn awkwardly in gate 12 and 16 respectively.
Heathcote believes Vilana, who has taken out the Silver Eagle and The Hunter in two of his three runs this preparation, is the biggest threat to Rothfire.
“No doubt, Vilana,” Heathcote said.
“Vilana has been a revelation throughout the spring.
“He could be one of those horses that has snuck under the radar.
“Who knows how good he is.”
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