Knott put Hunt Ball up for sale following a fall out with trainer Kieran Burke, who asked the owner to take his horse away. Now he will run in the colours of an American syndicate, Atlantic Equine. He heads west on 24 May, for a new box in the stable of Jonathan Sheppard.
Knott explained why he had pulled the horse out of today’s auction, saying, “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 fin as I’ve had.”
That journey saw Hunt Ball catapult up the handicap ratings from 69 to 154 in less than 18 months, as he won seven races on the trot/gallop. The highlight of these was a Cheltenham Festival win in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase in March last year. Winning proved more difficult once he was out of the novice class, but Hunt Ball had one more notable success last month when he won Taunton’s richest ever race, and before that he had notable placed efforts in the Grade 2 Peterborough and Argento Chases.
Nick Carter, a former conditional jockey in England, heads up the Atlantic Equine syndicate, which counts Meister Eckhart, trained by Alan King, was clearly delighted at the opportunity to buy such a good horse, and already had plans set out for his new acquisition. He said, “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. He’ll go for the New York Turf Writers Cup, then the Lonesome Glory at Belmont and the $250,000 Grand National.”
Hunt Ball could be heading further afield, as Carter added, “In the back of our minds we could go to Japan for the Nakayama Grand Jump.”
He has high hopes that Hunt Ball will prove as successful in America as he did here, as became clear when Carter explained, “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 be the highest rated horse to come to America as well.”