Horse Racing: Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase
Saturday November 16
Channel 4 2.35pm
The first major jumps race of the new National Hunt season takes place at Cheltenham tomorrow, when the remarkable Hunt Ball and his entertaining connections have the chance to continue one of the more bewildering upward sporting curves of recent times.
The seven-year-old chaser began last season rated just 69. To put that into perspective, the recently retired legend that is Kauto Star was rated 193 at his peak. In short, then, Hunt Ball started his last campaign rated as an absolute donkey. But, trained by the talented tyro handler Keiran Burke and owned by the effervescent (and ever so slightly bonkers) dairy farmer Anthony Knott, the gelding went on a run of seven wins from nine races, including a valuable handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, before ending the season by placing third in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree.
As a result, Hunt Ball heads for tomorrow’s Paddy Power Gold Cup rated a staggering 157 – with the ever-enjoyable Knott claiming he still has a stone in hand of the handicapper. If he is to fulfil his owner’s dream of running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, however, this is a race he should be winning – a tough task, with David Pipe’s extravagant grey Grands Crus and the Paul Nicholls-trained Al Ferof also in the field.
Whatever happens in tomorrow’s race, though, it’s worth tuning in. If Hunt Ball wins, his owner may just become the first person ever to spontaneously combust on live television.