Brad Gets 300
When Brad Williamson drove his 300th winner last night, it was fittingly for his father Phil.
Fanny Hill, bred and owned by Southlander John Duff won at Alexandra Park on the first night of the Interdominions, bringing the 300th for Brad with it.
His driving career began in 2012, but he’s been involved with horses all his life, brought up on his parents Phil and Bev Williamson’s property at Oamaru with his two brothers Matty and Nathan.
“We played at our grandparent’s place next store. We had Riding for the Disabled ponies and we used to ride them around Grandad’s stables from the age of five. Matty and Nathan were always putting carts on their ponies and this was well before Kidz Kartz,” he said.
At school he says he wasn’t an A student but enjoyed maths and playing sport. “I was very good at maths but pretty average at the rest. I was always in the top classes for maths – my only claim to fame at school.”
On leaving school he went into the harness racing industry, employed initially by his dad.
His first race day drive was at Kurow in August 2011 on Muscleman gelding El Castro which finished eighth. He didn’t have to wait long for his first win. It came later in the month, at Gore, when he won with Graceandtamika for trainers Geoff and Jude Knight.
As a junior driver Brad learned his craft working for Tony Herlihy, John Dickie and Murray Brown.
“I also spent a bit of time at Cran Dalgety. I was a good friend of Jack Trainor.”
As a driver Williamson hasn’t won a Group One race yet but has had success in a listed race on Get Lucky, has won three Group Three races driving Majestic Man (twice) and Springbank Lachie and he won a Group Two event with Majestic Man.
Despite being successful at driving he says he was always more interested in training.
“I’ve never been a big fan of driving at the races. I’d rather train one than drive one personally. For me it’s always been the training. I was always more interested in what we were doing during the week than the weekends when there were races.”
Therefore for the past three seasons he’s been mixing driving with training, and now owns a twenty two acre property next to his parents on Waiareka Valley Road in Oamaru.
He lives there with his partner Janelle Gibson who also has an equine background, having represented New Zealand as an equestrian rider.
“I’ve got a full stable set up there. I’ve got a couple of boxes and it’s all paddocked out with fencing. I’ve got a lane between my property and Dad’s where I can take my horses to his track.”
Brad says the most difficult aspect for a young person getting started in training is needing to grow clientele from scratch.
“It’s tough to get the support from quality owners. Everyone wants to be at the top level and the hardest part as a young trainer is getting quality stock. The older trainers are more established. You can’t just go to the sales and spend $100,000 on a Bettor’s Delight like you’d like to.”
Purchasing readymade horses from other stables proved to be a way to get started: Zoned Scarlett came from Darren Simpson and Mr Handleman from Brendon McLellan’s stable.
“I tried to buy some cheap out of form horses and syndicated them with friends who had limited funds. We bought some older horses, and won races and they had a lot of fun.”
Mr Handleman winning at Gore – Photo Bruce Stewart
His first training winner was Jeddy R Ya Ready in December 2017 at Forbury Park. But his first big break came one day at the races at Oamaru when he met Gary Preston, and this led to him getting stable star Cracker Hill.
“I’d never met him (Preston) before. Cracker Hill was passed in at the sales and Nigel McGrath ended up with the horse. He had trouble syndicating him and he went back to his vendors (Lex and Heather Williams). Then Gary syndicated the horse. Gary had lived in Oamaru a few years ago. I was lucky with how it all worked out.”
In his first season of racing Cracker Hill as a two year old he won on debut at Winton, but was disqualified in the listed Yearling Sales Two Year Old Trotters Final at Addington. He ran second in the Group Two Trotters Two Year Old Championship before finishing his season by running second in the Two Year Old Ruby at Addington on Jewels Day.
“Everyone notices you if you have horses that go well on days like the Jewels. I think it helped attract new owners.”
Cracker Hill is back in work and expected to return to the races in the next few months.
“He’s building up quietly and I’m happy with the way he looks. He’s filled out and is a great big strong horse for a three year old. Fingers crossed he performs as good if not better than last year.”
One of the other highlights in Williamson’s short training career to date was winning with Rydgemont Son on Cup Day earlier this month.
“On those days the races are the hardest to win. They’re usually dominated by Purdon and Dalgety horses. It was good to get a good result for an owner who’s been good to me in a short time.”
With 300 driving wins on the board and twenty seven training wins there’s still plenty in store for this young horseman on both the driving and training front where naturally because of his heritage, he’s leaning towards square gaiters.
“Definitely trotters. I don’t have half the experience with pacers that I do with trotters.”
On his immediate radar is handling Majestic Man for the remainder of the Interdominion series.
Williamson says Majestic Man’s best form has been in Auckland.
“He’s a horse that seems to turn his form around in Auckland. We hope that when he gets up there he’ll get rejuvenated. At Addington the other day he wore a murphy blind and a pole to help him with the bends but in Auckland he just has an open bridle and he just goes as straight as a die. Right from when he was a two year old he’s been fluent and straight that way round.”
Majestic Man and Brad Williamson – Photo Bruce Stewart
Brad’s Driving Fact Sheet:
300 stats: 3159-300-284-290 $2,650,358 UDR .1755
Best season (Junior Driver): 2016 – 541-70-56-49 $347,093 UDR .2171
Best season (Open Driver): 2019 – 459-49-41-37 $591,064 UDR .1832
1st winner: Graceandtamika – Gore HRC – 28th August 2011
Three wins in one day:
- Winton HRC – February 2016: Dissolution, Pyramid Monarch and Sam Galleon
- Wyndham – January 2018: Idealistic Lass, Chilli Franco and Without Doubt
- Wyndham – March 2018: Ossessione, Lorretta Franco and The Doorman
Trotting winners: 167
Pacing winners: 133
Championship wins: 2016 New Zealand Junior Drivers Premiership (70 winners)
Number of winning drives (trainers list):
- Phil Williamson (130)
- Alister Black (31)
- Self (19)
- Syd Breen (13)
- Eion Latimer (9)
Listed wins (1):
- 2019 PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Trotters Final (Get Lucky)
Get Lucky – Photo Bruce Stewart
Group Three wins (3):
- 2017 New Zealand Two Year Old Trotting Stakes (Springbank Lachie)
- 2019 Northern Southland Trotting Club Southern Lights (Majestic Man)
- 2019 Four and Five Year Old Trotting Championship (Majestic Man)
Group Two wins (1):
- 2017 Two Year Old Trotters Championship (Majestic Man)