14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Big guns chase weekend GoldHeadlines
Hunt Ball

Hunt Ball and Cristal Bonus feature among 23 horses to stand their ground at the confirmation stage for the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The Keiran Burke-trained Hunt Ball was one of the most improved chasers in training last season but was pulled up on his reappearance in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Former smart novice chaser Cristal Bonus, trained by Paul Nicholls, landed a Grade Two at Down Royal by nine lengths last month.

Anthony Knott, owner of Hunt Ball, explained the intention was for the horse to run at the weekend before the King George at Christmas, although ground conditions could be against his horse once more.

He said: "The ground went against us last time and if we get better ground you will see a proper horse.

"He's probably going to run this weekend, as I know Andy Stewart (sponsor) well, but they have predicted rain coming in and it looks as if the ground will go against us.

"He could do with a blow-out ahead of the King George and if he ran into the frame (at the weekend) I'd be well pleased."

Nicholls has also left in Ghizao and Unioniste, with trainers' title rival Nicky Henderson double-handed through Quantitativeeasing and Nadiya De La Vega, who was third to Al Ferof in the Paddy Power.

Wishfull Thinking heads the weights from his Philip Hobbs-trained stablemate Menorah, who beat Cristal Bonus in a Grade One at Aintree's Grand National meeting.

The International Hurdle and Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle on the same card have both been re-opened for entries until Tuesday morning.

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