The remarkable Hunt Ball is to bid to end what has been a truly stunning season for the rags-to-riches chaser by taking on the best in the business in the Grade 1 Betfair Bowl at the Aintree Festival, writes Elliot Slater.
The horse who began the 2011/12 National Hunt season as little more than a selling chaser rated just 69, will attempt to lower the colours of the likes of horse racing betting favourites Riverside Theatre, Kauto Stone and What A Friend in the feature chase over three-miles-one furlong of the Mildmay course. Trained by Keiren Burke, the seven-year-old gelding began his dramatic improvement by landing a hat-trick of wins in novice handicap chase company at Folkestone and Fontwell in late-November and December, before meeting his only reverse of the term when second to Time To Think on heavy ground at Plumpton in January.
Ideally served by a decent surface, the son of Winged Love who is owned by flambouyant dairy farmer Anthony Knott, returned to winning ways at Wincanton later that month to score off a mark of 108, then followed up at the same track four weeks later off a new rating of 117 – he is now popular among racing betting tips. Raised another 10lbs to 127, Hunt Ball made it six for the term when slamming Cool Friend by an easy 10-lengths in a decent Kempton handicap chase and was duly raised another 15lbs to 142, a mark that meant he had to carry top weight of a massive 12 stone at the Cheltenham Festival in the listed Pulteney Land Investments Handicap Chase.
Amazingly Hunt Ball brushed aside the burden to spark ecstatic scenes at the home of jump racing, slamming White Star Line by a remarkable eight lengths and is now rated 154, 85lbs higher than the mark on which he started the season! Burke and Knott want to see just how good their pride and joy is and are hopeful he will run another huge race against top-notchers in the Betfair Bowl.