Hunt Ball is Tinkler’s National hope

Jockey Andrew Tinkler.
Jockey Andrew Tinkler.
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MALTON-BORN jockey Andrew Tinkler is likely to partner Hunt Ball in the Crabbie’s Grand National on Saturday week.

The horse’s American owners say the Yorkshire rider will be in the saddle at Aintree if Barry Geraghty chooses to partner stablemate Triolo d’Alene, the Hennessy winner, as widely expected.

Both horses are trained by Nicky Henderson and a final decision is likely to be made over the weekend.

Now nine, Hunt Ball was bought by American-based ownership syndicate Atlantic Equine last May, having previously carried the colours of Anthony Knott to a number of victories.

He was unable to make a significant impact during a summer campaign in America, but has run two encouraging races since returning to Britain and was fourth in Cheltenham’s Ryanair Chase.

His Aintree odds of 66-1 are considered by connections to be over-generous.

Atlantic Equine’s Stephen Price said: “Unless the heavens open, I think he is 99 per cent certain to run in (next week’s) Grand National.

“You don’t get too many opportunities to own a horse running in the Grand National and the owners are all really looking forward to it.

“When Ben Nevis won the race (1980) he was owned by Americans and ridden by an American (Charlie Fenwick) and a lot of Hunt Ball’s owners were there to see it.

“Hunt Ball obviously has a lot to do with all that weight (11st 7lb) but he is a huge price and I’m not quite sure why he is so big – maybe people think he won’t stay the four-and-a-half miles.

“If Barry doesn’t ride, I would imagine Andrew Tinkler will ride Hunt Ball again.

“He gave the horse a very sympathetic ride at Ascot and we’d be quite happy to have him on board again.

“The main thing all the owners want is for the horse to come home safe and sound after the race.”

Tinkler is in action at Wetherby today where Ilkley trainer Richard Drake will attempt to record back-to-back course victories with Work Boy, the mount of his daughter Samantha.

Roger Charlton has warned ante-post favourite Captain Cat would be doubtful for tomorrow’s William Hill Lincoln, the curtain-raiser to the 2014 Flat season, if Doncaster receives its expected rainfall.

Charlton has stressed good ground is crucial for the five-year-old, who has been the subject of sustained support and who is due to be ridden by Middleham-based Joe Fanning.

From 79 horses left in at Monday’s confirmation stage a maximum field of 22 remained in the Lincoln, with the next 22 going for the consolation William Hill Spring Mile.

Brewer John Smith’s is to become the new day one sponsor of Doncaster’s St Leger festival.

The Tadcaster firm is also extending its sponsorship of the longstanding John Smith’s Cup at York for a further two years.

This remains the longest Flat race sponsorship in the world and this year’s renewal on July 12 will be the 55th running of the famous race.

Arena Racing Company, the owner of Doncaster and 13 other racecourses, has agreed a new prize money deal with the British Horseracing Authority.

It will see funding increased by £2.2m to £11.3m, a 24 per cent increase.