First group win for Williamson
By Jonny Turner
Oamaru trainer-driver Brad Williamson added another accomplishment to his family’s long list of trotting achievements when Cracker Hill won the Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton on Saturday.
The Muscle Hill 3yr-old produced a powerful front running performance in the mile (1609m) feature to notch Williamson’s first group race victory as a trainer.
The first of what is set to be many group race victories for Williamson can be linked to a chance meeting with Queenstown harness racing enthusiast Gary Preston.
And it could give hope to breeders and vendors that took home passed in yearlings from last week’s national sales.
“I didn’t really know Gary before he asked me to train the horse,” Williamson said.
“He had been passed in at the sales and Gary was syndicating him.”
Williamson suspects the reason Cracker Hill was passed in was because of the way his front legs are conformed.
“He doesn’t stand that well in front, so I think that is the reason he was passed in.”
“It doesn’t worry him and I have always thought he is a really nice horse.”
Preston is the man behind the syndication enterprise All Things Harness Racing.
All Things Harness Racing was the official purchaser of Cracker Hill’s half-brother, by Love You, at last week’s yearling sales.
The trotter will head to Williamson’s barn, where he will join two Muscle Hill yearlings that the Oamaru trainer purchased.
The New Zealand Trotting Derby in April is Cracker Hill’s next big assignment.
Williamson plans to start the 3yr-old in the Sires Stakes Prelude at Addington on March 13, prior to that.
“The trotting derby is his big aim for the next part of the season,” Williamson said.
“Hopefully we can have a bit more luck with the draws there.”
“We will get through the derby before deciding on anything else.”
“I’ll give him a race at Addington before then, because he hasn’t started there for a while.”
“So, he can go to the Sires Stakes Prelude.”
Cracker Hill worked to the lead after being trapped wide early, before One Majic Kenny put pressure on him before the turn.
The winner brushed off that challenge early in the home straight before going on for a comfortable and impressive win by almost two lengths.
“I was really happy with him, he felt great,” Williamson said.
Midnight Dash was a neck behind One Majic Kenny in third.
The first three broke away from the rest of the pack by five lengths at the finish.
The testing nature of the rain affected Ashburton track saw the Sapling Stakes run in slower time than the Hambletonian Classic.
Krug scored a front running victory in the 2yr-old pacing feature in 2.01.1
That mile (1609m) time was 2.1sec slower than Cracker Hill’s 1.59.0 effort.
Blair Orange controlled the Sapling Stakes tempo with Krug, who held out runner-up First Class in a dash up the Ashburton straight.