It wasn’t too many years ago that increasingly prominent conditioner Brian Williamson was known as an assistant to his father-in-law – the legendary Arlington trainer Harvey Vanier – but when the venerable Mr. Vanier retired in 2004 Williamson stepped up to take over the reins of that family-oriented operation.

However, this year, beginning at Oaklawn and now at Chicago’s northwest suburban oval, Williamson is in the midst of the best season of his own two decade-long career of saddling horses in his own name.

That was made evident once again in the Prairie State Festival when the 51-year-old Chicago native saddled Hernandez Racing Club’s La Tia for an eye-opening eight-length score in the $113,125 Purple Violet Stakes.

“That was a very nice win for us, especially to see the horse dominate the race like that,” said Williamson a few days after that victory while on the cusp of a top 10 ranking in the trainer standings. “I was pretty confident she’d run well in that race because of the way she ran in the race before that.

“What’s next for her?” the trainer asked rhetorically. “I suppose we’ll have to at least nominate to the (Grade III Arlington) Oaks (July 21) and then take a look to see how that race shapes up as it gets closer.

“Somewhere down the line we’re going to try the grass with her,” Williamson said. “She’s related to that mare Mulata (also bred by Hernandez but now owned by In His Favor Stable and trained by Manny Perez) who has won two races on the grass here at Arlington this summer.

“However, (La Tia) is going so good on the Polytrack here right now it’s hard to think of taking her off of it just yet,” Williamson said. “We galloped her again today. She came out of that race the other day just great.

“It’s been a good year so far for us,” Williamson said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going. I went to Hot Springs last winter and won a couple of stakes there, including one (the $60,000 Gazebo) with (Oak Knoll Farm and Team Wilcox’s Ontario-bred) Fastestwhogetspaid, who won a grass race for us here at Arlington a couple of weeks ago. I was originally thinking about the (Grade I) Queen’s Plate for that horse, but there’s a $150,000 stakes at Woodbine July 2 (the Achievement Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds) that’s a more likely possibility.

“(Russell L. Reineman Stable’s) Color Me Blue was getting ready to make a nice run in the ($114,625) Black Tie Affair Handicap the other day, but then he got pin-balled all the way down the lane,” Williamson said. “He’s a nice horse, too. We won the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn with him last winter. Then, he was third to (Pin Oak Stable’s Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and Grade III Pimlico Special winner) Alternation in the Grade III Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn and second to him to him before that in the Essex, and that’s when Alternation was starting to get good.

“So even in the races where we’re not winning, we’ve been getting some decent checks,” Williamson concluded. “Now, we’ve got some nice 2-year-olds that are starting to get going, too, and they’re our hope for the future.”


Longtime Chicago news anchor Ron Magers is back in town now, but when his filly Third Chance won the $112,125 Isaac Murphy Stakes by six and a half lengths on Prairie State Festival Day June 16, the dean of Chicago broadcaster’s was in Italy.

“I just got off the plane,” Magers said on the day after the Festival. “Yesterday, I watched the race on the internet in my hotel in Florence, Italy. I was there with Bob Marcocchio (another Third Chance co-owner) enjoying a brief vacation in Tuscany.

“However, I understand (WLS Afternoon Drive Co-Host) Roe Conn, another one of our co-owners along with Russ Scurto, represented us very well in the winner’s circle, so it was a big day for all of us.”