BATHURST-based caterer Gary Williams found the recipe for success when he guided the aptly-named Happy Camper to a strong win in the Radio 2DU Pace (2120m) at Dubbo Paceway on Saturday night.
After living in Dubbo for 27 years, Williams and his family shifted to Bathurst 13 years ago and took the risk of setting up a catering business.
These days the horses are a hobby but the trainer-driver admitted he still gets a thrill out of winning.
"The business is really booming and I can't have too many horses because I don't have time for them but having one or two is good and it's nice to get a result like we did tonight," Williams said.
"This is a family horse. My son Aaron owns him and he works down in Sydney with Luke and John McCarthy.
"He was being trained down there with the McCarthys but just wasn't shaping up so he got sent home and we've won a couple of races with him.
"He's no champion but he's giving us a good run and it's nice to be able to come back to our old home town and win a race."
There were more than a few happy campers across TAB outlets in NSW after the race, with the five-year-old starting a well-supported $5.40 chance on the tote.
From barrier eight, Williams was able to position the gelding in sixth place throughout the race as Devious Cullen ($13.40, Sally Torrens) found the front in the early stages.
While race favourite Always Over ($2.30 fav, Braden Sullivan) was trapped three and four wide throughout, Happy Camper had a good trail in the running line and when Kyalla Luke ($6.80, Nathan Hurst) took off with a lap to go, Williams quickly got on his back and got a trail for the final 800m.
The race changed complexion a number of times in the last lap, with Kyalla Luke clearly heading Devious Cullen before the Gunnedah pacer fought back to take the lead into the home straight.
Happy Camper was produced rounding the turn and despite copping a bump and losing balance for a stride or two, built enough momentum to run down his rivals and win by one-and-a-half metres from Devious Cullen with Kyalla Luke a neck away in third.
Despite having a torrid run, Always Over battled on well to finish fifth.
The win was the fifth of Happy Camper's 54-start career and took his earnings to almost $20,000.
Happy Camper's win started the ball rolling for Bathurst connections, who won five of the six races on the program.
Angela Hedges was in the gig when the Nathan Hurst-trained Getaloadathis ($5.10) beat An Ace To Keep ($4.30, Sally Torrens) and It's Girl Power ($4.20, Amanda Turnbull) in the main event, the Dubbo RSL Championship Final (2120m).
Turnbull may not have tasted success in the main race but she finished the program in style, winning the final three races including the Ron Hoy Stand And Deliver Standing Start Handicap (2120m) aboard Highview Kiwi ($1.90 fav), which came off 40m to beat Rattlen Ranji ($22.30, Kurt Lew) and Karingle Aurella ($15.80, Steve Dowton).
RESULTS: Page 22