IF the Barcaldine Open Plate (1100m), to be run on May 16, develops as a war of wills then trainer Patrick O'Toole would not be surprised should Slaydem prove best.
Slaydem (Salade-Midnight Nova) should be dead rather than seeking a fifth career win at his 12th start.
Soon after his debut third in Rockhampton in 2018, Slaydem caught his nearside hind leg in a fence, peeling the layers of skin and sinew back to the bone.
He was later transferred to O'Toole's Barcaldine yard.
His injuries took months to heal despite O'Toole's wife Shellie concocting a Tumeric-based cream she applied constantly.
"Two and three times a day Shellie would bathe and clean his leg, apply more cream then wrap it and eventually he came good," O'Toole said.
"He is as game as they come but without Shellie's attention he probably wouldn't be here.
"The injury was so bad there was nothing but bone exposed and no-one could have expected him to get as far as he has. He must have a big heart."
The injury has limited Slaydem to only 11 starts, four of which have resulted in victories and the remaining seven assignments have delivered five minor placings for a win and place ratio of 81 percent.
"There are few harder triers than him and he is a beauty to have in the stable," O'Toole said.
"We don't go anywhere near the track until race day. We gallop him out of a car and he just loves the routine. For all he has been through he is a quiet bugger. My daughters can ride him and if kids are about he is in his element."
Scott Sweedman will be having his first ride on Slaydem.
Todd Austin is another Barcaldine trainer with a consistent runner engaged in the Open. Wicked Express (Wicked Style-Camphor) is the big earner of the field with $119,150 in the bank from six wins and 16 placings in 33 runs.
Matthew Gray will be riding him.
Longreach-based Richard Simpson expects Leo's Express (Love Conquers All-Lady Leo) to feature despite being at a class disadvantage.
"He's is only a Class 6 horse up against the open graders but he will not lie down," Simpson said.
"He is a very relaxed horse and he enjoys his racing because we don't overtax him. He does a lot of trot and canter and a bit of three-quarter pace in work and he always does enough to keep himself in good nick.
"The barrier (14) is a problem but the others will know he's in the race."
Jockey Ray Hancock will be a new rider for Leo's Express, substituting for Cheryl Rogers who rode the gelding to a comeback second in Longreach on May 3. It was the four-year-old's first run for 2020.
Hancock will also be riding Ms Wicked Nicci (Benchmark 60), Temper Temper (Maiden), Grey Falcon (Class B) and No More Bids and Top Evie in divisions of the Benchmark 65 Handicap.
Hancock will also have five mounts in Cloncurry on May 17 - Delilah's Dream, Seriously Happy, Hologram, Grand Symphony and Mandalong Pass.
Of all contestants at the Barcaldine card, Pogo (Spirit Of Boom-Auburn Gold) adds the most intrigue. Raced by Eureka Stud where Spirit Of Boom holds sway in the stallion barn, Pogo has raced only three times.
But form students have pegged the Craig Smith-trained Pogo as one of the non-metropolitan stars.
His debut in Roma on November 16 was nothing flash, Pogo finishing nearer last than first when seventh of the 12 starters.
Less than a fortnight later he impressed when second in Rockhampton and then went for a summer spell, returning on April 25 to win over 1100 metres at Dalby under 55,5kg.
Last start winning rider Dan McGillivray has retained the ride and will use his three kilogram allowance to lower Pogo's impost to 58kg.