Hunt Ball was a Cheltenham Festival winner last season but he gained more press coverage than most thanks to a remarkable rise through the ranks. The Keiran Burke trained horse started his novice chasing season rated at just 69 before going onto rattle 7 wins on the trot culminating in his Pulteney Land Investments Novices Handicap Chase success at the Festival. The handicapper simply couldn't get a hold of the horse and his win at the Festival off of top weight was a remarkable run under the circumstances. His class was confirmed in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree when he he ran a blinder to finish third on his first start in Grade One company in April, that was enough to see him finish the season on a mark of 157. That performance prompted Hunt Ball's excitable connections to target the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013 and with the new season approaching we look set to see him stake his claim in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the Open Meeting in November.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup is one of the biggest races of the early part of the season and it will be a fascinating test of Hunt Ball's credentials in top company. The bookmakers are already making Hunt Ball the favourite for the Paddy Power with the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day another possible target for this now famous horse. Connections are convinced he has what it takes to mix it at this level and are expecting plenty of further improvement from the remarkable horse we saw last season at Cheltenham. The Open Meeting is the highlight of the first part of the season at Cheltenham and we will see a number of potential Festival horses head to Prestbury Park to test their metal for the first time this winter. None will attract more interest than Hunt Ball though especially if he does pick up the win in the Paddy Power against what looks likely to be a strong looking field. Possible opponents to Hunt Ball include experienced and classy chasers like Cue Card and The Giant Bolster who memorably came second behind Synchronised in the Gold Cup last season and could be a great form yard stick.