By Glenn Davis
Tolga trainer Roy Chillemi remains hopeful Grey Missile can overcome an awkward barrier in his bid for back-to-back wins in the $100,000 Cleveland Bay Handicap at Townsville’s Cluden Park on Thursday.
Grey Missile drew barrier 12 but will come into gate eight if the emergencies don’t obtain starts in the 1300-metre feature.
Grey Missile is part of Chillemi’s two-pronged attacked in the Cleveland Bay but he had no luck in the barrier draw with stablemate Concluder who drew gate 20.
The Cleveland Bay Handicap is north Queensland’s most famous sprint and is part of the lucrative three-day Townsville winter carnival.
The winter carnival in Townsville kicked off last Saturday when the Leanne Ashford-trained Hidden In Heaven won the Lightning Handicap which was also doubled as the Race To The Reef Final.
The $150,000 Townsville Cup (2000m) will be run on Saturday.
Chillemi, a winner of 13 Townsville trainers’ premierships, has been training for more than 40 years and is chasing his third Cleveland Bay after winning it the first time with Kanetoshi King in 2009.
Grey Missile has won nine times in 24 starts and is following the same path as last year when the gelding won the Cleveland Bay after claiming the weight-for-age Open Sprint at Townsville on July 9.
Grey Missile stormed home from near last on the home turn to repeat last year’s victory in the weight-for-age lead-up race to the Cleveland Bay Handicap.
“It’s a very strong field again and there’s at least half a dozen chances,” Chillemi said.
“It’s not the best barrier but it’s better than drawing out wide so it’s not that bad.
“He showed he’s close to the same form he was in last year when he won last start.”
Grey Missile was on the minimum when he won last year’s Cleveland Bay but is still well weighted with only 1.5 kgs more this year after lumping 59kgs to victory at Cluden Park on July 9.
Mackay Newmarket winner, Mr Attitude drew a horror gate 17 as he bids for his sixth win from his past seven starts while former Sydney sprinter Ozark drew perfectly in barrier two.
Ozark, now with Rockhampton trainer Jared Wehlow, made his Queensland debut winning a Class Six at Mackay on July 13.
The five-year-old son of Lonhro won six of his previous 18 starts after originally being trained in Sydney for John O’Shea and James Cummings before a short stint with Cody Morgan.
Racing Queensland webnews July 23