TRAINER Tony Ball is thrilled with the progress of his Country Championships contender Bantarki ahead of Sunday's Taree race meeting.
The four-year-old gelding will have his final lead-up run to the championships when he contests the Sunrise Cundletown Country Boosted Championships Preview Class 4 Handicap over 1250 metres.
"He's there to win on Sunday," Ball said. "Aaron Bullock is riding him and it's an ideal race for the horse. He's had one run back to fit him for this and then it's two weeks into the championship qualifier at Tuncurry.
"He was fifth first-up on the Kensington track at Randwick and it was a very good run considering he didn't have a barrier trial leading in and went straight into the race.
"I believe he's up to the class of the championships. Aaron is keen to stick with him for the qualifier if he runs well on Sunday and I think he's ready to do that.
"He has run a good second over 1500 at Port Macquarie in the past and has further matured since then, so there are no worries about him running the 1400 at Tuncurry."
Ball also has the veteran Ljungberg in Sunday's race. The eight-year-old isn't eligible for the Country Championships, but Ball expects him to run well in the preview.
"I find it hard to split my two horses," Ball said. "They work together and they're both going really well."