Heathcote on verge of first hometown Group 1

Trainer Rob Heathcote is hopeful his patience with one of the country’s most exciting two-year-old's will be rewarded with his first hometown Group 1 victory in the J.J. Atkins at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

Rating experts had Rothfire among the best in the country of his age before the colt suffered his first defeat when second in the QTIS Jewel at the Gold Coast in March.

Heathcote was under pressure in the weeks prior to The Jewel to send Rothfire to Sydney for the Golden Slipper but his preference was to stay at home despite the massive prizemoney on offer in the world’s richest two-year-old race.

Instead, Heathcote targeted the Brisbane winter carnival with Rothfire and planned two starts in the Group 2 Champagne Classic and J.J. Atkins.

“I was under pressure to go for the Golden Slipper but I always wanted to run him in The Jewel which was worth a lot of money and then the J.J. Atkins which was worth a million dollars until COVID-19 intervened,” Heathcote said.

‘I still believe I’ve got the best two-year-old in the country and he’s got the speed to get across from his wide barrier (14).

“I’d like to see him lead but there is a doubt about him getting 1400 metres just like there’s a doubt about others running the distance.

“Jim Byrne thinks he’ll have no trouble running it out.”

Rothfire has won four of his five starts but has never been tested past 1200 metres.

Heathcote has won 10 Group 1’s - including seven with his champion sprinter Buffering - but has never had success at the highest level in his home town with seven placings in 35 attempts.

Rothfire gave Heathcote his third victory in the Champagne Classic with an easy all the way win, setting up a J.J. Atkins clash with the vastly improved Gold Coast youngster Wisdom Of Water and Sydney colt Wild Ruler.

History shows barriers have not played a significant role in the J.J. Atkins with 12 of the past 30 winners coming from outside barrier 10.

The Champagne Classic has been a reliable guide with three winners going on to win the J.J. Atkins from 12 starters.

Sizzling was the latest to win both features in 2012 following Pressday (2010) and Lovely Jubly (2002), while other winners Zousain (2018) and Brazen Beau (2014) went on to finish second in the J.J. Atkins.