The Ultimate Cracker (Ultimate Stride v Cracker Hill)

The Ultimate Cracker (Ultimate Stride v Cracker Hill)

Bruce Stewart

1st September 2020

Although it’s still just over a month away, trotting fans, particularly those of the Williamson trotters Ultimate Stride and Cracker Hill  are looking forward to the two talented squaregaiters going head to head next month in Auckland.

Cracker Hill – Photo Bruce Stewart

Trained by Phil (father) and Brad (son) respectively, they will clash in the PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Trot on the 9th October, and the $50,000 Group Two Haras des Trotteurs Sires Stakes Three Year Old Championship on the 23rd October.

No doubt there’s been plenty of quiet ‘observation’ going on as both horses are trained on the same property.

“The banter has been huge. It can come up at any time and it can last a while. We’re all looking forward to the challenge to find out which one is the better one. I think Brad’s horse may be faster but we’re just hoping we’ve got the tougher one,” said Matty who is the regular driver of Ultimate Stride.

The Love You trotter missed most of his three year old season through injury but returned late in the season to win twice at Ascot Park in June and July. His last win was by an impressive seven lengths and he broke the Ascot Park and Southland Track Record for Three Year Old Colts and Geldings recording 3-27.4 for the 2700 metre stand.

Ultimate Stride winning at Ascot Park – Photo Monica Toretto

His biggest lifetime win as a two year old was in the 2019 Group One Breeders Crown at Melton which he won by 37.8 metres.

Ultimate Strides has won eight of his twelve races and banked $160,000. His dam One Over Kenny won the Sires Stakes Three Year Old Championship in 2005.

Cracker Hill has won seven of his twelve starts – six as a three year old in just eight runs. He’s banked $90,078.00.

In June Cracker Hill broke the Ascot Park and Southland Track Record for Three Year Old Colts and Geldings for 2200 metre mobile running the distance in 2-43.7.  His biggest win was in the Group Three Hambletonian at Ashburton.

Cracker Hill in record breaking form at Ascot Park – Photo Bruce Stewart

“They’re two very good horses that are going to be fighting fit going into those Auckland races. Ultimate Stride possibly handles the left hand way of going a bit better than mine. I think the draw will have a big part to play when they go head to head. I think we may have a bit more speed point to point but I might be a little bit biased,” said Brad.

“I think Brad may have the faster horse but when they’re getting along at record pace it’ll be then we’ll see which is the best or if Tony’s (Herlihy, trainer of Bolt For Brilliance) one is better than both,” Phil added.

Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride have met three times before as two year olds, and Phil says there’s no doubting Cracker Hill’s staying ability.

“If you watch Cracker Hill’s run when he ran second to Matua Tana – that run was phenomenal. He sat three out beside the leader for the last round. That had X-factor about it. I’m not sure whether Ultimate Stride could have done that. Since then Brad’s horse has done nothing but scare me (laughter).”

And as Phil rightly points out, neither Cracker Hill or Ultimate Stride have raced the Auckland way round yet.

“I think it’s a bit early for Brad to make that call (laughter). We’ve only been going that way round at home and we’ve never worked together,” he said.

Both trainers point out that the Tony Herlihy trained Bolt For Brilliance is very much in the frame as well.

“Tony lives up there so he’s got a little bit of an advantage. I’m sure they’re looking forward to it as much as we are. He came from behind at the Jewels and beat them both. He’s probably sitting there waiting on us and there’s a few others,” said Phil.

Bolt For Brilliance (outside) beating Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride at Addington – Photo  Bruce Stewart

He agrees the draws and the way the race is run will play its part.

“Especially over 2200 metres. They’re both fast out of the gate so it’ll be game on, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to it. That’s why you’re in racing,” said Phil.

Cracker Hill was the leading three year old stake earning trotter last season but his run of success was disrupted by Covid-19.

“There’d be no one happier than I if Brad could win those races. I think he’s already been pretty hard done by. I think he had the Derby at his mercy because we weren’t going to be there and he was beating the horses that were going around at the time,” said Phil.

Looking over the New Zealand Record Book, Ultimate Stride holds the mobile 1980 metres New Zealand record for two year old trotters of 2-27.7 recorded at Addington, while Cracker Hill holds the three year old record for the same distance also recorded at Addington of 2-27.2.

“Brad’s horse is going super but Dad’s horse is very good as well. We’re hoping that we’ve got the tougher of the two. Hopefully we draw inside him and can make it tough. It’s going to be a great race and I think everyone will be looking forward to it when they clash,” said Matty.

Both horses were bred by Lex and Heather Williams.

Ultimate Stride – Photo Bruce Stewart