Hunt Ball: meteoric rise in 2011/12 season culminated in Cheltenham winPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Knott's star Hunt Ball sold to race in America
HUNT BALL is set to continue his career in the US after owner Anthony Knott agreed a private sale to Atlantic Equine, an American-based syndicate run by Nick Carter and his business partner Stephen Price.
The sum involved is not being disclosed, but the deal came as a blow to Doncaster Bloodstock Sales, where the eight-year-old chaser had been scheduled to go under the hammer on Wednesday.
Knott, who no longer has any racehorses and is quitting the sport, said: “The offer they put on the table was too good to refuse. I will be sorry to see him go, but there is no horse who is going to take me on the journey we’ve been on so, it’s the end of the era. I just hope he gives his new owners as much fun as I’ve had.”
Between November 2011 and March 2012, Hunt Ball, trained by Keiran Burke, shot to fame with a meteoric rise through the handicap ranks, winning seven races and climbing from a mark of 69 to 154, culminating in victory in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Although successful only once since then, when winning Taunton’s richest-ever prize last month, Hunt Ball finished second in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase and third in the Grade 2 Argento Chase last season.
This month Burke severed the association when he asked Knott to remove Hunt Ball from his yard, saying he had taken the decision for business reasons.
Atlantic Equine, which has a number of horses in Britain, most notably the Alan King-trained Meister Eckhart, will be sending Hunt Ball to legendary trainer Jonathan Sheppard after the gelding is shipped to the US on May 24.
Carter, a former conditional jockey who rode for Paul Nicholls among others, said from his Maryland base: “Very rarely do horses of this calibre come up for sale. I like to buy horses who go on good ground as we tend to get that in America. I’ve bought horses over in the past like Black Jack Blues who have dominated and proved to be Grade 1 class, and with a horse such as him, rated 162, it will take a very good one to beat him.
“He’ll go for the New York Turf Writers Cup then the Lonesome Glory at Belmont and the $250,000 Grand National. In the back of our minds we could go to Japan for the Nakayama Grand Jump.
“The reason I bought him is I think he’s the best horse to hit American soil since Morley Street. Although ratings have changed over the years, he would also be the highest-rated horse to come to America as well.”