05/26/2005 11:00PM

Wilson's winter in Arkansas is paying off


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Campbell Wilson is off to a fast start at Fort Erie, as usual.

In 2003 Wilson saddled 3 winners in his first 10 starts. Last year, he did a little better - 4 wins from 11 trips.

This year is better still. Going into this week, Wilson has sent 13 horses to post and won with 5 of them. It put him in a tie with Nick Gonzalez atop of the trainer standings.

Wilson, 29, spent most of the winter at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. He exercises his own horses, and besides getting his runners fit there he added a few fit ones, with conditions, to his stable.

"I could afford the cheaper horses, which are generally maidens or non-winners-of-two," said Campbell. "I've had good luck this spring - none of the horses got sick or anything like that with the shipping. And they have stayed pretty sound."

The favorite in Campbell's 12-horse barn is Oh Mar, who gained his 13th win last weekend. It was in a $5,000 claimer.

Oh Mar, 9, lost a photo decision two weeks earlier against $8,000 foes.

"Oh Mar is the best horse I've ever trained, as far as having the will to win and being able to overcome a lot of problems," said Campbell, who is in his fourth full year of training.

"He has trouble breathing but he tries real hard. He's fun to have around."

Champegnie returns after year off

After sitting out last year's meet, Stanford Champegnie, 54, a longtime Fort Erie regular, has retuned to training this year.

"I have nine horses for Audre Cappuccitti," said Champegnie. "Some of them have yet to run. It may be a while before they get going."

Champegnie was an assistant to Cappuccitti, a Woodbine owner-trainer, for one year.

Champegnie was suspended last year for three months. A runner of his had tested positive for an excessive level of carbon dioxide. "With the short meet here last year, I just took the whole year off," said Champegnie.

Florida stay good to Simms

Trainer John Simms is off to an excellent start here and at Woodbine, after wintering in Florida. Simms saddled Classy Flower to two victories at Woodbine, and he has won four races at Fort Erie in eight attempts going into the weekend.

"We took down nine horses to Tampa Bay," said Simms. "A couple of them were taken to get ready after recovering from injuries. We got 5 wins and 7 or 8 seconds from our limited stock. We were very happy. We killed the winter, covered all our expenses, and had a lot of fun."

They also brought back some nice runners that they claimed. Two of them, Gypsy Romance and Disbelief, have since won impressively.

Another claim, New Kid in Town, runs Sunday, as will the star of the barn, Roman Romance.