Cheltenham Festival News
Monday 6th January 2014
Hunt Ball Has Festival Target Again

Hunt Ball's new owners are hopeful of running the nine-year-old-chaser at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, and are planning to give him a run out before then.

Hunt Ball
Hunt Ball

Hunt Ball capped off a fairytale season when running away with the 2012 Pulteney Novices’ Chase under the top weight of 12 stone.

The then seven-year-old had run at Cheltenham the previous April with a rating of 69 and was to rise to a mark of 142 after this success, his seventh of the season.

Trainer Keiran Burke was saddling a Festival winner in his first season as a trainer, having won as a jockey in 2011 on Holmwood Legend in the Byrne Group Plate. It was also a first Festival winner for jockey Nick Scholfield and an emotional owner, the ebullient Dorset farmer Anthony Knott.

The following season he was upped in class, and performed admirably, but was then sold to the Atlantic Equine syndicate to race in America. He failed to show any of his previous zest in four runs out there, so a decision was made to send him back to Britain into the care of Nicky Henderson.

Stephen Price, of Atlantic Equine, said: "When I last spoke to Nicky, he was very happy with him and said that he was coming along much quicker than he had anticipated.

"We are still thinking about Cheltenham, which is what we hoped for when we made the decision to bring him back.

"I've yet to have a conversation with the handicapper about his mark, but it was blatantly obvious he didn't run to form in America.

"Some of his owners are Maryland timber racing guys and while he will probably go back to America at some stage, they are really looking forward to him possibly running at Cheltenham.

"He looks a million dollars. I couldn't believe it when I saw him last, and Nicky is hopeful that he might even get a run into him before the Festival.

"It's a question of whether he retains his old form - can Nicky coax it out of him? - but he looks so well you'd have to be hopeful. Whatever happens, though, he'll be going back to America and we'll be looking to prove the doubters wrong."

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