23 entries revealed for Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup

Last Updated: 10/12/12 4:58pm

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Hunt Ball: An intended runner on Saturday

Hunt Ball: An intended runner on Saturday

Sky Bet

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.

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

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

"It looks as if the going will be soft or heavy and that's really no good for us but he needs a blow-out and I'd like to support Andy Stewart's charity initiative so we're probably going to run. If he gets into the frame I'll be well pleased," said Knott.

"The King George is the race I really want to win and hopefully the ground will be better there. When he gets back on to better ground you'll see the real Hunt Ball.

"I've got egg on my face at the moment but this fellow is good. Kieran said the other day that he was blowing him off his back. We just need the going and you will see again what he did at Cheltenham last season. I can't believe he's 33-1 - that's a retirement job."

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

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.

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