Australian runners won J.J. Atkins (G1) and Stradbroke (G1), respectively.
The Queensland bush has produced some of the finest horses to grace the Australian turf—think Bernborough, Gunsynd, Dalrello, and Lough Neagh among others—and while the two group 1 winners at Eagle Farm June 6 have a long way to go before joining their ranks, Stradbroke day in 2020 will long be remembered as a momentous day as the locals came to the fore.
Trainer Rob Heathcote has won group 1 races all around Australia and on the world stage, but he registered a first group 1 in his home state when Rothfire scored one of the juvenile wins of the season in the XXXX Dry J.J. Atkins (G1).
Just over half an hour later, former Tolga galloper Tyzone took out Queensland’s flagship race, the TAB Stradbroke Handicap (G1), giving father-son training partnership Toby and Trent Edmonds their maiden group 1 success.
Queensland-trained horses have not completed the J.J. Atkins-Stradbroke Handicap double since 1984, when Prince Frolic and Daybreak Lover won each race respectively—and on different days of the long weekend, too.
Riches Galore Await Rothfire After Atkins Success
Auction house reject Rothfire, already one of the rags-to-riches stories of the year after his victory in the J.J. Atkins, may attempt an even greater feat come October after Heathcote revealed that the world’s richest turf race, The Everest at Randwick, may be on the gelding’s radar.
“It’s a really good story. We’re very pleased for the Heathcote stable,” Rothfire’s co-breeder Jacob Gleeson, representing his family’s operation Gleeson Thoroughbreds, told ANZ Bloodstock News. “There are a great group of owners in this horse, and I just hope he takes them a long way. I hope that he’s the sort of horse that is around for many seasons, competing in the top races.”
A number of Everest slot-holders have expressed interest in Rothfire in an attempt to emulate last year’s winner, 3-year-old Yes Yes Yes. Newcomers to the race MiRunners, with its broad ownership base, appear a logical fit for the race, with Heathcote admitting that its four-person panel had already interviewed him about a potential deal.
“He climbed his Everest today, and note that I did use the word ‘Everest,'” Heathcote told Sky Thoroughbred Central. “He will spell now, I’ll take him to the paddock on Monday myself, and we haven’t put anything in concrete as there are a stack of races for him—a race like the Coolmore (G1) at Flemington could be perfect. But I have had some talks about The Everest, and I am not talking out of turn. I did an interview with MiRunners. We know that they have bought a slot, and they told me the other day that he’s certainly in the running for their spot.
“He needed to do that today against a good, strong field of 2-year-olds, and I will be eagerly waiting to see where (form analyst) Daniel O’Sullivan rates him.”
Any Everest deal may have taken a step forward after Rothfire’s victory. Sent off as the favorite, rider Jim Byrne was happy to sit handy behind leaders Wisdom Of Water and Isotope from gate 13. Notably, though, the gelding appeared relaxed and unfazed, despite the fact he had established a profile as a strong pacesetter.
From the apex of the bend to the Eagle Farm winning post, though, it was a one-act affair with very little doubt over its conclusion. Rothfire hit the line 3 1/4 lengths ahead of the Steve O’Dea-trained Gotta Kiss; The Drinks Cart flashed home into third for Toby and Trent Edmonds, cementing the 2020 J.J. Atkins as a race for the underdogs with Queensland horses filling the trifecta.
“Wow. He is some horse, hey? I am lost for words, and that is not normally me,” Heathcote, choking back tears, said. “I have been saying for months he is doing things even my multiple group 1 winner Buffering couldn’t at the same stage. I have been a nervous wreck all week, but when you have a jockey like Jim Byrne, you have a big start.
“He is so experienced and calm. He didn’t panic when he couldn’t lead and ended up getting the run of the race. He is bombproof.”
Heathcote, who won the Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored by Meydan Hotels and Hospitality (G1) in Dubai with Buffering, believes that Rothfire can follow in his footsteps. “This bloke can take me around the world,” he said.
But while the world may beckon, Rothfire’s background is far more humble. In fact, it’s almost difficult to believe that, a little more than 12 months ago, few wanted anything to do with the then “unremarkable” bay or brown yearling.
Unwanted and unfashionable as a yearling and rejected from even the most minor yearling sales, Rothfire was reared on the Chinchilla property of Wally Gleeson, his wife Jill and their sons Jacob, Simon and Tom—hence his nickname, the “Thrilla from Chinchilla.”
Born in September 2017, the Rothesay colt was the last of six foals produced by the Hussonet mare Huss On Fire. Even to his breeders, though, he hardly set the world on fire.
“It’s funny, he was one of those horses that didn’t stand out at all,” Gleeson said. “He was just a very plain horse, but there was nothing wrong with him. You’ll often pick a foal and can see a fault with it, or you’ll pick a foal and say, this is a standout. But he was the sort of the horse that flew under the radar, he didn’t raise any eyebrows.”
Inspected by sales representatives and bloodstock agents, Rothfire was overlooked as a yearling prospect. Heathcote snapped him up for AU$10,000, although he famously had to pay the bill twice after falling victim to a phishing scam.
Rothfire has now earned AU$708,400, having won six of his seven starts.
From Tolga to Top-Flight Triumph for Tyzone
The town of Tolga—population 2,718 at the last census—is known for its peanuts and very little else.
As a nursery for top-class Thoroughbreds, it may not be the Simpson Desert, but it’s not far from the bottom.
Take Tyzone who, on Doomben 10,000 day in 2017, couldn’t have been much further away from the group 1 action in Brisbane. Instead, he was winning an open handicap at a picnic meeting at Gordonvale, south of Cairns.
However, the deeds of Tyzone—nicknamed the “Tolga Tornado”—in winning the Stradbroke may throw more of a light on the north Queensland racing circuit given what he has achieved since transferring to Toby Edmonds and his son Trent in early 2018.
On Saturday, Tyzone became the talk of Tolga when he took out Queensland’s most famous race, a year after finishing second. Ridden by Robbie Fradd, he came with a late flourish to deny game mare Madam Rouge by a head with another head back to Niccanova in third.
“I never expected him to do what he has done,” Trent Edmonds told ANZ Bloodstock News. “You get a horse from up there, from the Tablelands, and you think, oh well, he might measure up to Saturday grade or hopefully a little bit better. He’s won a group race and now he’s won a group 1—it’s bloody unreal.”
Like Rothfire, Tyzone was also a product of the Darling Downs, having been reared and broken in by Cameron and Kellie Bond from their Kenmore Lodge property in Wyreema, just outside Toowoomba.
Sent through the 2015 Magic Millions Gold Coast 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, the Written Tycoon colt fetched AU$60,000 ($44,172) to the bid of top North Queensland trainer Roy Chillemi on behalf of an ownership group headed by Tom Hedley.
Winning 11 of his first 19 starts, predominantly at Townsville, Tyzone was a consistent open handicap performer. However, with a rating in the mid-80s, options were quickly running out up north and Hedley decided to send the chestnut down south.
Working his way through the grades, he scored a first stakes win in the Goldmarket Handicap in March last year, adding the BRC Sprint (G3) in May before he finished second to Trekking in last year’s Stradbroke.
Tyzone is the ninth group 1 winner for Written Tycoon, who will stand for AU$77,000 this season having relocated to Arrowfield Stud.
It was a big day for the late Hussonet, too, as he was the damsire of both group 1 winners.