Byrne looking at extended Sydney stay through Golden Rose-coloured glasses
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Byrne looking at extended Sydney stay through Golden Rose-coloured glasses

Jim Byrne's phone hasn't stopped this week as Golden Rose favourite Rothfire became the centre of the racing world, but some family time has the Queensland jockey ready for anything at Rosehill on Saturday.

One of the benefits of an extended stay in Sydney for Byrne was having time with son Corey, who is based here with the navy.

Jim Byrne returns on Rothfire after winning the Run To The Rose

Jim Byrne returns on Rothfire after winning the Run To The RoseCredit:Getty

"We just got away for a couple of days, he is a good lad and it just got me away from thinking about Saturday," Byrne said as he did his form on Friday. "There is not much to do away from the track, while I'm here."

Rothfire is the reason Byrne will spend a couple of months in the Harbour City but COVID-19 restrictions meant he left his wife Rhamie and children Georgia, Maddison and Lachlan behind in Brisbane.

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"Being away from the family was part of the deal coming down here, so it is good to spend some time with Corey. He is going to try and come on Saturday and will be there for the Everest," Byrne said.

The sacrifice Byrne has made gives trainer Robert Heathcote confidence he has the right rider and punters got to see why when Rothfire strolled away from most of his rivals to claim the group 1 Run To The Rose a couple of weeks ago.

"There is calmness and confidence around him with Rothfire," Heathcote said. "You don't do what he is doing [being away from his family] without knowing it's worth it.

"He is a different jockey to five years ago and is handling this so well.

"He has gone from being the big fish in a little pond up here in Brisbane to the smallest fish in Sydney but he has a shark to keep him company."

Rothfire's results have backed up the confidence Heathcote and Byrne have always had in him. When Rothfire was a two-year-old, they talked of what was ahead of him even before he won the JJ Atkins – which to date is his only run at 1400m – and the Golden Rose and The Everest were front of mind.

The pair have been around long enough and had enough good horses to know just how hard it is to come to Sydney and win a group 1.

Rothfire leaves his rivals in his wake in the  Run To The Roses.

Rothfire leaves his rivals in his wake in the Run To The Roses.Credit:Getty

"I knew he was an Everest horse and wasn't scared to say it and guess what we're down there and in the race," Heathcote said. "Jimmy knew it as well."

The pressure and attention of riding a favourite in the Golden Rose had Byrne turn off his phone on Thursday but it will not affect him on the track.

"It is a bit different in Brisbane you do one or two interviews and then they leave you alone," he said.

"[The pressure] would have got to me when I was younger but I have travelled a lot and ridden in different situations now. Raceday is the easy day really.

"It will be just like any other race once we get on the track, there is a plan A and a plan B.

"I know what my horse can do and don't have to worry about the others."

He showed a cool head in the Run To The Rose using that philosophy when Farnan took off early. Byrne was happy to ride his race, five lengths behindthe runaway before reeling him in within a couple of strides when he asked Rothfire for an effort.

"He was fresh that day and probably 80 per cent fit," Byrne said. "He got striding for five or six strides when Farnan went around us and then came back to me, he is so relaxed like that.

"I rode him the other morning and he has really stepped up again, so they will have to be good to beat him on the weekend."

Rothfire is an even-money favourite for the Golden Rose and Byrne knows what to expect once the gates open.

"I will either lead or be outside lead the way [the Golden Rose] will be run. He is such a good gate horse and will put himself there," Byrne said.

"I have always thought 1400m would be his best trip. He is so relaxed and at this trip you are going to see the sharp turn of foot he possesses."

Heathcote, back in Brisbane, has to rely on reports from Sydney and talking with Byrne always leaves him with a smile.

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"This will sound like I'm knocking him but Jimmy Byrne is the best trackwork jockey I have met," Heathcote said. "He gets off tells me how fast he went, so I don't need to check a watch, and how the horse feels.

"You get off the phone to him in Sydney and feel like – lucky I'm not there.

"Everything he tells me tells me the horse is ready to go on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Murwillumbah trainer Matt Dunn has confirmed he was fined $6000 by Racing NSW stewards after Rothenburg was disqualified from his Highway Handicap win in July.

Rothenburg returned a positive swab to an anti-inflammatory, which Dunn told stewards was the result of contamination within the stable.

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