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2012 Cross Country Chase winner, Balthazar King, has had an excellent season going into the Cheltenham Festival 2014 as he has been successful twice already around the Prestbury Park circuit.
Phillip Hobbs’ runner won the unique contest at the four-day meeting two years ago when getting up by a head in a photo with A New Story. Since then though, his performances have been inconsistent.
A return to cross-country chasing last September has sparked the horse to show his best form once again and connections are hopeful of another big Festival attempt.
The main target for Balthazar King last season was the Grand National at Aintree therefore he bypassed Cheltenham for the Aintree showpiece event. Unfortunately for anybody who backed him in the 4m4f contest, he could only finish 15th of the 40 runners.
His next assignment after the world famous steeplechase was the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown. That proved to be one race too many for him after a long campaign and jockey Richard Johnson was forced to pull him up at the 18th fence.
After a few months’ rest, Balthazar King was back in action in France. He took the Grand Cross Country De Caraon – Crystal Cup despite not being fancied for that race in the betting.
On his return to the UK, he scored in a handicap chase at Cheltenham over 3m, before another run on the Cross Country Course in the Open Meeting in November. He was a warm favourite for the event where he managed to finish ahead of Uncle Junior and Any Currency, respectively.
Balthazar King’s biggest rival next month is likely to be the 2013 winner, Big Shu, who is currently above him in the market for the event.