Jim Byrne wasn’t going to make the same Golden Rose mistake twice so he packs his bags for a two-month stint away from home which could potentially yield the biggest payday of his career.
He rides Queensland’s boom sprinter Rothfire in Saturday’s Run to the Rose, then the Golden Rose a fortnight later and provided he runs to expectations in those races, the $14 million Everest on October 17.
Family has always come first in the career decisions Byrne has made, so leaving his wife Rhamie and children Georgia, Maddison and Lachlan won’t be easy.
On the plus side, oldest son Corey is now based on Sydney, so he will be able to see him on occasions.
“A month would be the longest I’ve ever been away from my family, so you’re out of your comfort zone being away this long,” he said.
“But I’m not going down there for a holiday. I plan on working, I’ve spoken to Peter Snowden and my manager (Cameron Partington) has spoken to Kris Lees, so hopefully I can pick up a few other rides as well.”
Byrne won Melbourne’s 2006 Group 1 Ascot Vale Stakes on Gold Edition and in Sydney a Silver Shadow on Our Sweet Moss (2004) and a Hill Stakes on Desert War (2005) at Group 2 level, but there is one race he regrets not being in the Harbour City for.
“There’s been a few occasions in the past where I’ve thought not to go and it’s come back to bite me on the tail,” he said.
“Doonan won the Golden Rose (in 2004) for Helen Page and the opportunity was there to ride him.
“Through your career there’s times you know you should have gone and Doonan was one that really did hurt. I should have taken it.”
Byrne had ridden Doonan in all five Brisbane starts before Hugh Bowman took advantage of his absence in the $1 million race.
Sixteen years later, he hopes he has found the right horse to provide that Golden Rose redemption.
Sky Racing Update: 9th September 2020.
Byrne is unbeaten in four rides on the Rob Heathcote trained Rothfire, the latest being his demolition of rivals in the Group 1 J.J. Atkins in June.
He partnered him in a Doomben trial last month and was also aboard when Rothfire sizzled his final 600m in 32 seconds in a recent Eagle Farm track gallop.
“When you do go down you want something pretty special and I think I do have that this time,” Byrne said.
“We don’t know how he’s going to measure up to the Sydney horses, but I think he’s as good a two-year-old as I’ve ridden.
“Every time you put this horse out there and ask him to do something, he goes to the next level for you.
“Saturday’s race, you will really know where you are at. Farnan is not going to be an easy horse to get to. But we will know after the race where we stand.”
Byrne rode Redzel to win the 2017 Doomben 10,000 before the Peter and Paul Snowden trained gelding went on to be a dual Everest winner, so he knows the kind of engine needed to win the world’s richest sprint race.
“I do believe it takes a special horse (and) I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility,” he said.
“ (Rothfire) hasn’t raced those horses before, so I don’t know. I just don’t know the depth he will get to, but I am confident in the horse’s ability.
“I am very confident he has the ability against the three year olds and if he gets into the Everest he has a great weight advantage.
“He’s definitely a horse that deserves a shot.”
Originally published as Golden Rose regret still burns for Jim