Rugged Cross swoops to cap Chris Waller’s stellar season

It was fitting the final stakes race of the Sydney season was won by a Chris Waller-trained galloper.

Rugged Cross finished fast to snare a last-stride win in the Listed $100,000 Winter Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, providing the third leg of a four-race win haul for the champion trainer, who also had two winners at Flemington.

Waller’s list of achievements over the 2014-15 season are quite staggering and include:

● A fifth consecutive Sydney trainers’ premiership.

● Stable earnings of $26.3 million is an highest national record.

● His 14 Group 1 winners is the most by any trainer in a season for more than two decades.

● Rugged Cross was Waller’s 51st stakes win for the season.

● His quartet of winners with Soviet Courage, Japonisme, Rugged Cross and Marenostro gives him 141 winners on Sydney racetracks this season.

How Waller must wish the 2014-15 season would never end.

“It has been pretty special, that is all I can say,’’ Waller said.

“As I have said time and time again I have a great team. Whether I am in Sydney, Melbourne or overseas, my team keeps it all going.’’

Despite his extraordinary season, Waller maintains there is room for improvement.

“I’ve got an open mind on new ideas,’’ Waller said.

“I feel going to Aidan O’Brian’s at Ballydoyle in November and to England in June and July with Brazen Beau has been close to a career highlight for me.

“So, it has been a fantastic year and we are still learning.’’

Rugged Cross may not be one of Waller’s elite runners but the trainer maintains the former English galloper plays a role for the stable.

“He’s no superstar but he is a very important horse for the stable because he is constantly winning prizemoney,’’ Waller said.

Rugged Cross ($7.50), ridden superbly by Brenton Avdulla, came with a powerful surge late to edge out gallant leader Two Blue ($5.50) to win by a short half head, with Wouldnt It Be Nice ($16) a short neck away third.

“It was a lovely ride by Brenton,’’ Waller said. “From the good barrier, he could ride the horse quietly, conserve energy and time his run.’’

Avdulla got it exactly right as he drove Rugged Cross between runners to “ambush” Two Blue in the last stride.