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King back with Hobbs for fresh assault on festival

IN A blizzard of get-well cards cursed only by the local postman, Balthazar King fought back to recover from a horror fall in last season’s Crabbie’s Grand National.

Now the 11-year-old, who suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung after tumbling at the Canal Turn, is back with trainer Philip Hobbs and being readied for a fresh assault on the Cheltenham Festival.

Balthazar King captured the hearts of racing fans as he spent six weeks at the University of Liverpool Equine Hospital before being transferred to his part-owner’s home in Hampshire, where cards from well-wishers bedecked his stable door and beyond.

Hobbs, who welcomed the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner back to his yard in Minehead on Tuesday, said: “He’s fantastic and looks really well. We won’t know if he’s made a full recovery until he runs but he looks like he has.

“He’s been ridden down at his owner Dave Rees’s farm in Hampshire for the last few months. He did a fair bit of cantering before he came back and he cantered this morning and was fine. It’s amazing all the cards he had after his injury. The public interest has been fantastic.”

An eight-time winner at Cheltenham, Balthazar King landed the cross-country chase at the festival in 2012 and 2014, and Hobbs said: “He’ll go straight for that race again. He won’t run before that.”

Best fresh

Some of the cards for Balthazar King, who was collected from Liverpool and taken to Hampshire by his devoted groom and work-rider Hannah Ball, included money with a request to buy him carrots and Polos, of which he could not get enough, along with visits from well-wishers.

Chris Butler, who shares ownership under The Brushmakers banner, added: “He went back to Philip’s yard yesterday and is very fresh and looks well. He’s been hunting and been doing only light work, but he’s at that stage where he’s ready to come back into full training.

“We’re not certain he’ll race again but we’re hopeful. He’ll let us know and he won’t run before the cross-country at Cheltenham as he always runs best when he’s fresh.”

Balthazar King’s prowess in such races is reflected in the prices – despite his troubles he is 6-1 third favourite to win the Glenfarclas-sponsored festival contest for the third time.

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