FEATURE - Little-known trainer chasing spring Group I dream

Clinton Payne - Tuesday August 29

Most punters across the nation won't know a great deal about Newcastle-based trainer Rod Ollerton but that could all change in the weeks ahead.

NSW provincial trainer Rod Ollerton. Photo: Bradley Photographers

One of the great things about the big racing carnivals is that they throw up the odd 'David and Goliath battle' and that's what the 43-year-old and his stable star Royal Tudor are aiming to achieve down south in Melbourne this spring.

Ollerton has "been training for the best part of 20 years" and only trains "a handful of horses".

But he knows what it takes to figure at one of Australia's biggest racing carnivals having won the Group II Grand Prix Stakes at Eagle Farm with Spuruson in 2005.

"It's the first time I've taken one to Melbourne," Ollerton said.

"A trainer like myself doesn't have the big numbers so you just have to be patient and wait until one comes along that you think can measure up.

"We're probably lucky if we get three or four new horses come through the stable every year and they are not just yearlings either.

"The last carnival horse I had was Spuruson and that was more than 10 years ago so as you can see the odds aren't good and it means you can be a few years between a horse you can raise your sights with.

"Royal Tudor is a horse that's shown us good ability, he's tough and we're trying to see if he can go that extra yard.

"These are the horses' trainers like myself keep chugging away for until we find one. Bringing him down to Melbourne chasing a big race is the dream for blokes like myself."

That dream hasn't happened overnight and it's been a long road for Ollerton to get to Melbourne with Royal Tudor.

The son of Snippetson is a home-bred gelding by a stallion that's since been cast off to Western Australia and although a Scone maiden winner on debut, the early indications were not that he would be a future carnival contender.

Royal Tudor winning at Rosehill earlier this year. Photo: Steve Hart

"He used to do quite a lot wrong in his races. He was a bit like a big kid so we've been patient with him," he said.

"He won his first start but I didn't think he was anything great, I didn't have any real ambitions for him other than being a little bit handy and he might win a few races but he has just kept finding something," Ollerton said.

"In his second prep, he won in town and I thought he might win another one down there but it was his third prep when I thought he might be a bit more than handy.

"I remember galloping him one morning and he went to another level and I thought to myself 'he might have a good race in him this horse'.

"He's kept improving since. It's been a long process, a lot of planning has gone into it and we're here now so hopefully he can do what we hope."

Royal Tudor is now a five-year-old and he's won eight of his 21 starts including four in town, the most recent being his last start when beating Sir Bacchus and Old North at Rosehill on June 3.

On Saturday, he'll start the biggest preparation of his career when he contests the $150,000 Group III The Heath Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield where he is based during his Melbourne campaign.

"He travelled down good and everything I've seen of him indicates he's settled in as well as I could have hoped," Ollerton said.

"I got here last night, he looked really well this morning and he worked and felt pretty good this morning. I was quite happy with him.

"He's at that point now. He's on the brink so it's time to see if he measures up.

"He's a really big strong horse, an adaptable horse and generally as a rule the Snippetsons are tough horses which is exactly what he is – a good tough horse that relishes a fight, he can grind it out.

"Provided he runs well as progresses as we hope, the Sir Rupert Clarke is the race we have in our sights.

"I'm expecting him to run a solid race on Saturday. Naturally he'll benefit from the run but he's quite forward."

I think he'll give us a good show on Saturday, in the past he's coped with whatever I've ask of him so hopefully he can cope with this challenge I've set for the spring."

I'll give it my best crack boss. Photo: Bradley Photographers
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