RAY Walker has been around horses all his life but on Saturday night the Temora trainer, owner and breeder got to experience a career first - being a Group 1 winner.
He watched on as Mister Rea posted an all the way win in the $100,000 Gold Crown Final at the Bathurst Paceway then was all smiles as he was presented with a host of trophies.
Walker had long wanted to win the annual Bathurst feature for two-year-old colts and geldings and said when Mister Rea drew barrier one he was confident.
That confidence was well placed as Walker's short $1.55 favourite delivered.
"He wasn't odds on for nothing, when he drew one it was over," Walker said.
While Walker is no stranger to success in feature races, the MIA Breeders Plate for two-year-olds amongst them, he'd not quite been able to clinch a Group 1 victory prior to Saturday night.
"I've run six seconds in Group 1 races before, so it was good to finally win one. They all got beat by a metre or two so they weren't close really," he said.
"Like running second was nearly like winning for me, so this was really good because you're racing the biggest stables.
"If I can keep the wheels on we might have a bit more fun."
I use to sit on my Dad's lap before I could nearly walk I reckon, I've been involved all my life.Ray Walker
Fun is something Walker has had plenty of when it comes to harness racing.
It's an industry his family has a long involvement in.
"I use to sit on my Dad's lap before I could nearly walk I reckon, I've been involved all my life," he said.
"My Grandfather was in the industry too. I won the Sapling Stakes with this horse on the 6th of March at Menangle and my Grandfather won it in 1955 at Harold Park."
After a winning debut at Kilmore and his Group 2 Sapling Stakes success, Mister Rea won his Gold Crown heat in an impressive 1:55.8 mile rate. He was the quickest qualifier.
Speed was something Mister Rea showed again when the green light was given on Saturday, getting away well from barrier one to ensure he took the lead in the 1,730m final.
From there the Pet Rock x Just Glenburn colt Walker bred with his wife Jane and the couple co-own with Greg O'Callaghan controlled things.
Mister Rea led by some four metres as the bell sounded, with Masquerading in the trail and fellow unbeaten colt Lightning Dan on the outside.
Lightning Dan closed within two metres down the back straight, but at the 400 mark the favourite found another gear and turned for home with a handy lead.
While Masquerading ($4.20) made up ground late, Mister Rea's driver Daryll Perrot raised his whip in triumph as he crossed the line as he knew he had it won.
Mister Rea's final split was 27.7 seconds as he won by 1.5m in a 1:54.3 mile rate, third-placed Better Than Lexy ($81) a further 22.4m back.
Just as it was Walker's maiden Group 1 victory, it was the first time Perrot had won at that level as well.
"It's great, it probably hasn't sunk it yet," he said.
"My first season driving was '93 so it's been awhile. I've only really had a crack the last 18 months, two years. I've only been a little hobby kicking around, but now I've been going to most meetings and trying to have a bit more of a dig because I'll get too old one day.
"To drive for Ray probably meant more, he's the reason I do what I do. Ray and my Dad were mates and I was kicking around hanging off a kart when I was nine and it just went from there.
"I wouldn't be a farrier either if it wasn't for Ray, so to win for Ray was just unreal."
Walker too said having Perrot in the gig added to the triumph.
"He hasn't had a drive in Group 1 race until tonight, that was his first Group 1 race tonight and like he's been with me since he was a kid so it was great," he said.
"His Dad was groomsman at my wedding, so he's been with me all his life off and on."
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