Hillsbrook Farms

Hard Not to Like, Jenny Wiley, Keeneland, April 12th 2014; Diana S, Saratoga, July 25th 2015

Trained by Michael Matz, Sire: Hard Spun. Dam: Like a Gem by Tactical Cat

 Skeptics say you have to be nuts to be a Thoroughbred owner. Garland Williamson is a Thoroughbred owner because he sold nuts. Lots of them. The transplanted Canadian, a native of Georgia, moved to Canada in 1967. “I started a nut business, all types of nuts,” he said.

His company, Trophy Foods, became the most successful food producers and distributors in his adopted country, specializing in edible nuts, dried fruits, confectionary and bulk foods. The company’s continuing success allowed him to retire four years ago, well after he re-connected with his Georgia roots and became a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, racing from his Hillsbrook Farm in Erin, Ontario. Hard Not to Like is a home-bred.

“I’ve always liked horses,” Williamson said. “I grew up in Georgia as a kid many years ago and we never had horses, but we always had animals. We had mules to plow the garden with.”

 His gray mare Hard Not to Like, like her dam Like a Gem, whom Williamson also bred and raced, is a lot faster than a mule. Like a Gem won the final three races of her career including the mile-and-a-quarter Maple Leaf Stakes. “Her first win was at five furlongs and she won up to a mile and a quarter,” he said. “We didn’t think there was any limitation on her distance.” She finished her career with more than a half million dollars in earnings.

Hard Not to Like, who was originally trained by Gail Cox and is now handled by Michael Matz, became just the second filly in 74 years to beat males in the Cup and Saucer Stakes for two-year-olds at Woodbine in 2011. She was second by three-quarters of a length in the 2012 Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. In her first start for Matz, she won the 2013 Grade 3 Marshua River Stakes before finishing ninth in last year’s Jenny Wiley Stakes.