Byrne Group date for Hunt Ball
Owner Anthony Knott has confirmed Hunt Ball will swerve the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and run instead in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.
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Keiran Burke's charge won the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at the meeting last year and was being aimed towards chasing's blue riband this time around.
However he appeared a non-stayer when third behind Cape Tribulation in the Argento Chase last weekend, forcing connections into a rethink.
"It's going to be good to soft, probably even heavy going at Cheltenham and that's no good to our fellow at the trip," Knott told At The Races.
"I've backed him for the Gold Cup to win a million but there's no point in kidding ourselves and we want to place him in a race we can win. The race that does that is the Byrne Group Plate. It's time to recoup some money and this horse has to get some wins next to his names. This is an obvious race, there are no easy races, but this one jumps off the page at me."
Some pundits felt the Ryanair Chase was a viable target for Hunt Ball at the Festival but he doesn't appear among the entries at this stage - and won't do come March.
"Keiran wants to go there but it would be £13,500 to supplement him for that and at the end of the day I've done my money and not had a run in the Gold Cup. He'll go for the Byrne Group, come down a little bit in class. I need to have a bet to recoup some money and that's the obvious race.
"The Byrne Group is an easier race than the Ryanair. He had a very hard race at Cheltenham last week and I don't want to bottom him again."