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Paddy Power Column: Christmas could come early for Hunt Ball

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WELL I’m like a kid on Christmas morning with Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup having come around again but I must say it certainly doesn’t seem like a year since Great Endeavour steamed up Cheltenham’s famous hill to land last season’s renewal.

Perhaps it is something to do with age but while I absolutely love the race and regard it as one of my children, the way it has quickly approached this year makes me realise that I am getting that bit older!

As usual it has that competitive edge to it and the two horses that have been making the headlines most this year are Grands Crus and Hunt Ball and I am going to side with the latter.

I admit that this week’s selection may be a bit biased as as I mentioned last week, I’ve met his owner Anthony Knott aka ‘Knotty’ and it was an experience that one doesn’t forget!

Hunt Ball begun his season last year off a handicap mark of 69 at Folkestone and must have been the biggest certainty that ever stepped on to a racecourse as later in the campaign he won at the Cheltenham Festival off a rating of 142 and went into his summer break rated 157, 88lb higher than the starting point at the Kent track.

I am a bit embarassed that I didn’t make any cash off this great improver as every time he ran, often a stone higher than the run before, I thought ‘he can’t do it again, can he?’ and he duly did!

But this time I’m going to stick with him as Knotty was telling everyone that would listen at Fontwell last Friday to lump on the apple of his eye and that 6-1 is a bit of value. Also I got a chance to talk to his affable trainer Kieran Burke who said that he did a superb piece of work last Thursday and he again reportedly worked well on Monday.

If Hunt Ball does win, making us a few quid in the process, I dread to think what Knotty will do as when he won at Wincanton last season, he jumped on the back of the horse behind jockey Nick Scholfield and was duly fined for his troubles!

Talking of improvers Baily Green has won seven on the bounce and I think he’ll make it eight in Sunday’s Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown if trainer Mouse Morris lets him go to the well again.

My fancy may have only beaten two rivals on his last start at Cork earlier in the month but Dessie Hughes’s Tofino Bay was preferred in the market and Baily Green wasn’t even asked for a full effort by David Casey to master him.

That success came over two and a half miles and our odds compilers were impressed enough to give him an RSA Chase quote of 16-1 afterwards and the way this fella keeps improving, who knows?He’s back to the mimimum two miles at the weekend but four of his six wins over fences have come over this trip and he clearly has a lot of speed while not lacking for stamina either.

Tottenham nearly managed to secure a draw away to last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday, when a late Edin Dzeko strike two minutes from time made the journey back to North London much more painful.

And Arsenal’s form of late has not been title challenging despite what Arsene Wenger claims and I think that Spurs will be able to get a draw at the Emirates on Saturday at odds of 12-5.

The Gunners threw away a 2-0 lead against Fulham last Saturday, something that would never have happened in the Adams-Keown era.

Selections

Saturday 12.45 Arsenal to draw with Spurs

Saturday Cheltenham 2.35pm Hunt Ball

Sunday Punchestown 1.05pm Baily Green​

 

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