Balthazar King aiming for cross-country glory at Cheltenham Festival

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  • Popular chaser Balthazar King, who was injured falling in this year’s Grand National, is “full of himself” and back in work.

    The 11-year-old fell at the Canal Turn and was then run into by another horse as he tried to get up during the race in April, resulting in several broken ribs.

    The horse has since made a remarkable recovery, with connections expecting him to be back for the Cheltenham Festival next year.

    Balthazar King has been out in the field at his owner’s home in Hampshire, but has recently been brought back into work.

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    “It’s great news,” his jockey Richard Johnson told H&H. “He seems to be in good form and ready to go again.

    “He’s all good now, he’s being ridden and he’s been hunting a couple of times.”

    Richard added that the plan is now for the gelding to return to trainer Philip Hobbs’ Somerset yard over Christmas.

    “The aim is for the cross-country race at the Festival,” said Richard. “It’s good news that it is now a conditions race [run off level weights], not a handicap, so he won’t have to carry top weight around.”

    Balthazar King has won the race the past two years.

    “He’s a very tough horse and has a great attitude,” added Richard. “He enjoys racing and his work and his owners say he’s full of himself at the moment. There’s no reason for him not to come back, the vets have been very thorough.”

    Following the fall at Aintree, Balthazar King was treated on the course for almost an hour before being taken to the University of Liverpool’s equine hospital in Leahurst.

    Balthazar King, who finished second in the 2014 Grand National, was sent off at 17-2 in the 2015 running.

    The 11-year-old had been saved for the race, bypassing the Cheltenham Festival, with connections hopeful for a good run.

    “He’s always been very bold and brave at jumping, maybe he was a little too bold,” said Richard. “It was a nasty fall but then Ballycasey [ridden by Ruby Walsh] bowled into him too, so it’s hard to know what caused the injury.”

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