Horizon looks good for Tony Ball at Grafton

The Tony Ball-trained Grand Horizon, pictured here winning the $45,000 Big Maiden at Grafton last year.
Image: Darren Winningham.

Tony Ball believes Grand Horizon ($8) is due to run a big race in the 1175m Class One Handicap at Grafton on Thursday. 

As a three-year-old, Grand Horizon won the $45,000 ‘Big Maiden’ on Grafton Cup Day.

Following a 23-week spell, the in-form Capitalist mare has been racing well without winning this preparation, placing in three of four starts at Taree, Newcastle, and most recently, Tuncurry. 

Late last month, she raced on a heavy 10 in the 1000m Class One at Tuncurry, and Ball hinted ‘the tough run’ had primed her for a big effort at Grafton, where she has drawn gate seven and gets in with 55kg after Mollie Fitzgerald’s two-kilogram claim. 

“We know she likes the track after she won the Big Maiden there during their carnival,” Ball said. 

“She’s drawn a gun gate, Mollie rides her work, and she has had a good run on her lately, and we think she’ll take some beating. 

“Plus, she doesn’t like a bottomless track, but her run at Tuncurry was a bottler.”

The Taree trainer had considered starting her in the 1000m Class Two Handicap at Grafton, but instead, he entered stablemate, Where’s The Fire ($13).

Another four-year-old that’s been knocking on the door of a win this preparation, the I Am Invincible gelding was previously trained by Matthew Dunn and will be having his second start for Ball. 

First-up, he ran fifth and was beaten just under five lengths by Cool Shalaa in the 1000m Class One Handicap at Tuncurry.

Fitzgerald is again in the saddle, but they have drawn the car park with gate 15. 

“The wide draw doesn’t help,” Ball laughed. 

“He might get trapped wide for half a furlong, but if Mollie can get him in, he’ll be hard to beat. 

“His run at Tuncurry was really good, and he’ll be better for it at Grafton.”

Ball heads to Newcastle on Friday, where he will be racing Bantarki, who ran out of his skin to finish third to the Marc Quinn-trained Auzstar in the Mid-North Coast Country Championships qualifier at Tuncurry late last month.

In that race, Aaron Bullock was in the saddle, and he just missed out on qualifying for the $1 million final at Royal Randwick on April 6, with the Marc Quinn-trained Agirlsbestfriend flashing late to beat him by a flared nostril for second. 

Ball will start the four-year-old in the 1200m Benchmark 64 Handicap at Newcastle alongside stablemate Ljungberg, and he said the $150,000 Country Championships wildcard qualifier at Scone was Bantarki’s goal.

“He missed out by half-a-nose at Tuncurry,” Ball lamented. 

“We want to get him in the final; well, that’s my ambition, so he’ll go to Newcastle, and I need him to run one or two, so we get a couple of extra Benchmark points and make sure he gets a run in the Wildcard.

“It was such a good run at Tuncurry, and it had me worried that it might have drained the guts out of him, but he worked brilliantly on Tuesday morning, and he’s tough, so we thought we’d give him a go.”

Tommy Berry will ride Bantarki, and Zac Lloyd will jump aboard Ljungberg. 

Ball explained that a miscommunication resulted in Aaron Bullock missing out, and instead, he will take the ride on the Greg Hickman-trained Unwritten in the same event. 

“It’s not Aaron’s fault he’s not riding him,” Ball said. 

“Aaron was meant to be going to Dubbo, and I already had Tommy and Zac booked, but that fell through; otherwise, he would have been on one of mine. 

“In saying that, I’m certainly not going to complain about having either Tommy or Zac on one of mine.”