Hats off to Hilton

It won’t be hard spotting Norm Hilton in the Caulfield crowd if he wins Saturday’s Group One Toorak Handicap with Queenslander Poor Judge.

He’ll be the one wearing the big black Akubra hat, cheering in the saddling enclosure.

Hilton is not a household name among the country’s training ranks and is more famous for his past deeds on the Australian rodeo circuit.

Hilton, who is based at Toowoomba, has only been training seriously for a little over three years but his horseman’s skills stretch back many years.

He rode for 25 years on the rodeo circuit around the country and was the Australian champion bull rider in 1984.

Hilton was also a former pre-trainer and breaker and is hoping to give his home town it’s second Group One victory in consecutive weekends following Captain Sonador’s win in the Epsom Handicap in Sydney last Saturday.

Like Hilton, Captain Sonador’s trainer Roger Milne was a relatively unknown to racegoers.

Hilton doesn’t wear his Akubra for any superstitious reasons.

“I’m a person who just love hats,” he said.

“It’s not a lucky charm or anything like that. Lucky charms play with your head too much.”

Sending Poor Judge down for the Toorak was an afterthought from the gelding’s New Guinea-based owner Phillip Tjoeng.

The original plan for the five-year-old following his last-start win at Doomben on September 25 was a spell to prepare for next year’s Group One Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm.

“The owner weighed up all the options and just decided to give it a go in the Toorak,” Hilton said.

“It’s a tough race especially if they decide to run More Joyous but anything can happen in a race.”

Hilton has booked Darren Gauci to partner Poor Judge who has an excellent strike rate, winning half of his 24 starts.

“I couldn’t get Glen Boss and Chris Munce is suspended,” Hilton said.

“The horse flew down from Brisbane early this morning and I’ve got him stabled at Caulfield.

“He’s earned a shot at the Toorak and he’ll run an honest race.

“More Joyous is the headline act if she runs but there’s a few other good ones against us.”

Hilton doesn’t mind being unknown in Melbourne but knows another former Queenslander, Peter Moody, who is now one of the country’s top trainers after making the leap into the unknown from Brisbane several years ago.

“I’ve never set foot on a Melbourne track until today,” he said.

“If Poor Judge runs well enough he’ll stay on for the (Group Two) Crystal Mile on Cox Plate day.”