Gold Fire ready to burn Cup field
By GREG WHITE
A LONG-RANGE plan hatched two years ago to lift the Carlton Draught Coffs Harbour Gold Cup will be tested a little after 4pm today when Cranbourne gelding Mr Gold Fire swings for home in the big race.
And just as a coincidence the jockey who will sit on his back began turning around his own career about the same time as the horses first victory.
"From the day he won a maiden at Port Macquarie in 2004 I started to think this horse could be a contender," trainer Jim Jarvis said yesterday.
"Even more when he came back to win at last year's Coffs Coast Advocate sprint meeting.
"We took a strategy to take him steadily and set a program of races to build him to this level."
Less than a week ago it seemed the son of Ladoni would miss the local highlight to concentrate on the Ken Howard Cup but that changed on Saturday when he won at the Gold Coast under the control of jockey Jasen Watkins.
"He wanted to bludge to the corner but then the bugger took off," Watkins said.
"The further they went the better he started to go and I've no doubt he'll handle the step up from 1800 metres to 2300 metres.
"Riding him in the Cup's fantastic and as you all know, I'll give him every chance."
Last Saturday's win was on a heavy track and with the Coffs course likely to be soft at least, the switch was made to the feature event.
A Cup win would be a crowning moment for Jarvis who's well on the road to becoming a local.
"We bought stables on the track 15 years back and my wife and I own an investment unit at Sawtell and one on the Northern Beaches we use when we come north every winter," he said.
"Eventually we'll retire in Coffs and extend the racing interests."
Mr Gold Fire will be the first horse Jarvis has started in the appropriately named Gold Cup and only the second ride in the race for Watkins.
"I rode St Chandon two years ago and we lead them up for home," he said.
"But he couldn't keep going and they ran over him."
After years of battling, hard work has seen Watkins' career take off in the last two seasons.
On the weekend he captured his first Coffs Harbour riding premiership, sharing the title on 12 wins with another great racing character, Allan Robinson.
"We bush blokes do it bloody hard, though," Watkins said of his constant battle with the bulge to make a living.
"Cup rides as good as this one don't come along all the time and you have to give it your best."
Jarvis cracked a smile when told off his jockey's enthusiasm.
"All the work getting the horse ready could make it worth the wait," he grinned.
But two years? Hardly anything at all.