FOR a man who has driven in nine Gold Crown Carnival finals and been a regular competitor over the last decade, it is surprising to think there was a time Michael Formosa wasn't too fussed about Bathurst.
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When the Ellalong trainer-driver first got into the business over two decades ago, he was more focussed on racing older horses than juveniles.
Formosa's first tilt at the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival in 2010 with a filly called Pearl Art was a reluctant one.
But Pearl Art won her heat of the two-year-old fillies Gold Tiara series by a short-half-head and while only managing 10th in the final won by Aussie Made Lombo, it was enough for Formosa to fall in love with the Bathurst carnival.
"I was never really interested in young horses back when I started, I was just mainly interested in older horses," Formosa said.
"But I had a younger horse and I only just qualified it a few weeks before Bathurst started and the owners said 'The horse is paid up for Bathurst, why not take it down?'
"I said 'If you really want me to I'll go'. She'd only had one start for a second, but went down there and won a heat and after that I was hooked.
"I just love the place, being down there and even going for a drive into town and having a look around. I think when you love something and it makes you happy, everything just falls together sometimes."
The passion Formosa has for the Gold Crown Carnival and support he has given it over the years has seen him named as the 2022 honouree.
It took some convincing from Bathurst Harness Racing Club chief executive officer Danny Dwyer before he accepted, but Formosa is delighted to have been given the honour
"First of all I wasn't going to accept it because I didn't think I deserved it initially," he admitted.
"It took awhile to sink in, it's still a little bit surreal to be honest to have my name up alongside some of the greats of racing."
Formosa joins the likes of Steve Turnbull, Jayne Davies and Noel Alexander and Chris Alford in acting as honouree.
Following his first Gold Crown Carnival experience with Pearl Art, Formosa switched his focus to training juveniles.
He found a good one by the name of Ultimate Art. The colt won two of his first three starts and while he was then offered some good money from owners who liked what they saw, Formosa's wife Kirsty urged him to turn them down.
His listened to his wife. It led him to his first Gold Crown triumph in 2012, then the following year Ultimate Art returned to win the three-year-old Gold Chalice final in track record time.
Ultimate Art is one of just two horses - Soho Valenica the other - to win the crown-chalice double in the history of the carnival.
"Ultimate Art came along and we took him to Bathurst and he did really well and we took him back a year later and he won again, so I've been every year since," Formosa said.
"It was a pretty big feather in his cap to be able to do that. He's definitely the best I've had.
"He had four starts at the old track and won all of them and had four starts at the new track for a win and three seconds, his last start there he won the Mayors Cup.
"He's a bit like me, he saves his best for Bathurst."
Ultimate Art's Gold Crown win came at the old showground paceway, and in 2015 when the Bathurst club staged its first carnival at their current track, Formosa again found himself hoisting the trophy.
This time he won with the Sam Dimarco trained Shadow Runner. It was another special moment.
"I've been friends with the Dimarcos ever since I started and Sam, the trainer, he was sick and not well for a long time and had been out of the game a long time, but he came back into it with that horse and another once called Gotta Go Gold," Formosa said.
"Sam was working them out at my place, so there was a bit of an emotional connection there with that win as well. It was sort of a fairy tale for both Gold Crowns really with the way everything turned out."
This year bad luck with injury and sickness means Formosa opted not to bring any of his current crop of two-year-olds to Bathurst.
But he will still drive for other trainers in the Gold Chalice.
"I sort of target the carnival now and the reason I target it is because I like it so much, I love going down there," he said.
"There have been times when I've gone down there and thought 'I won't win a race this year' and I've still won races, you've got to be in it to win it."
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