Rob Heathcote will look to make Queensland a happy hunting ground for Group 1 winner Rothfire after dropping plans to race him overseas.

Before debuting in the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes in Perth last November, Heathcote had formulated a plan to race the sprinter in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March.

Heathcote has a lifetime of happy memories after Buffering scored Al Quoz in 2016.

However, the 12-time Group 1-winning trainer said Rothfire should have won the Winterbottom, where he finished fifth as the $5.50 favorite and didn’t like the firm track, to justify starting at the stranger.

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Rothfire will now target the Queensland Winter Carnival with Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap as their primary focus, the race in which they finished third last year behind Alligator Blood.

“There’s no way you’ll see Rothfire at the races in the autumn, it will be Queensland’s winter carnival for him,” Heathcote said.

“The Stradbroke will be his main focus, he was unlucky in this race last year due to a wide barrier and still finished third behind Alligator Blood who I think is a world champion.

“If I can get him back in that shape, we will definitely be very competitive again.

“I scrapped the overseas plan after it hit that tough track in Perth.

Melbourne race

Rob Heathcote has halted an overseas campaign for Rothfire. Photo: Getty Images

“For him to have gone to Dubai, which I was considering, he should have won that Perth race and done well.

“But the fact that he only ran fifth was enough for me to pull the pin, bring him home and focus on winter.”

Meanwhile, stable mate and Group 1 winner Startantes will also be targeting the Queensland Winter Carnival.

Startantes claimed a sensational last-to-first victory in Group 1 Tatt’s Tiara last year but was then a disappointment in three Sydney Spring Carnival races.

“She was way off her best in the spring, but she’ll be back for her defense of Tatt’s Tiara and probably a crack at Stradbroke,” Heathcote said.

“She could go to Sydney in late autumn, but that’s unlikely.

“She definitely won’t be in the Championships, she won’t be ready for that.”

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