By TONY WHITE
THE chances of a hometown win in tomorrow's $125,000 Qantaslink Ramornie Hcp (1200m) have risen considerably for trainers Felicity Firth and John Shelton.
On tenterhooks before yesterday's official barrier draw at Grafton racecourse, the local trainers sported beaming smiles after their gallopers drew ideally in the 16-horse field for the feature race on the third day of the July Racing Carnival.
The Firth-trained Umatrick, winner of the John Carlton Cup last Thursday, came up with barrier three and Sir Dan, barrier eight.
For 35-year-old Firth, who heads what has become affectionately known as 'Team Tucabia', the draw was a huge relief.
"I'm really pleased. It's a very good barrier," the Tucabia-based trainer said.
"He should get a cosy run from there. We're all hoping.
"All this has been fantastic. It's just great for our little village (Tucabia)."
Umatrick is owned by Firth's sister Diana and her husband Russell Ball, who run the Tucabia general store.
"Since he won the John Carlton everyone has been coming into the shop wishing us good luck," Firth said.
"He (Umatrick) has a lot of supporters.
"I haven't done a lot with him since the other day (John Carlton) but he came off the track this morning snorting, rearing and bucking his brands off.
"That's usually a good sign he's very happy within himself, it's when he's right on.
"I think there was still a bit of improvement in him from the other day. We've got the alley now. It's a big step up for him but we're all hoping he can run a good race."
Asked what a Ramornie win would mean to her, Firth all but ducked for cover.
"I'm trying to not even think about that now," she said.
"We've been very lucky with this horse. There hasn't been one hiccup.
"So far nothing has gone wrong."
Shelton, a five-time Northern Riv- ers premiership-winning trainer, has previously tasted Ramornie success with Mother's Gift in 2000, the last locally-trained horse to win the time-honoured event, first run in 1917.
Sir Dan, owned by Pat Bramich, finished third to Takeover Target and Devil in last year's Ramornie.
"It (barrier eight) is certainly better than 14 last year," Shelton said.
"It's a pretty even field but I can't see any Takeover Target in the race. He's a definite hope."
Umatrick is rated an $11 chance and Sir Dan $17.
Favourite Mastermind ($3), a Chris Munce mount, drew barrier 12. Gold Coast-trained Stormcat Academy (barrier 19) was scratched following its horror draw, elevating Sound The Alarm into the field. It also increased the chances of second reserve, the fancied Allan Robinson mount Sir Mukafast, gaining a start in the Listed event.