Hunt Ball on comeback trail

Hunt Ball's owners are hopeful the returning chaser may have a run before the Cheltenham Festival.

The nine-year-old created a stir for his previous connections when he capped a memorable 2011-12 season with victory in a Listed race at the Festival.

He performed admirably when upped in class the following season but was then sold to the Atlantic Equine syndicate to race in America.

Hunt Ball failed to show any sparkle in four runs out there, so a decision was made to send him back to Britain into the care of Nicky Henderson, with the aim of returning to Cheltenham in March.

Stephen Price, of Atlantic Equine, said: "When I last spoke to Nicky, he was very happy with him and said that he was coming along much quicker than he had anticipated.

"We are still thinking about Cheltenham, which is what we hoped for when we made the decision to bring him back.

"I've yet to have a conversation with the handicapper about his mark, but it was blatantly obvious he didn't run to form in America.

"Some of his owners are Maryland timber racing guys and while he will probably go back to America at some stage, they are really looking forward to him possibly running at Cheltenham.

"He looks a million dollars. I couldn't believe it when I saw him last, and Nicky is hopeful that he might even get a run into him before the Festival.

"It's a question of whether he retains his old form - can Nicky coax it out of him? - but he looks so well you'd have to be hopeful. Whatever happens, though, he'll be going back to America and we'll be looking to prove the doubters wrong."