Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
|Class 2, Cheltenham 15:35
|Friday 14th November 2014|
1 Balthazar King 4/7F
2 Uncle Junior 8/1
3 Sire Collonges 8/1
NR: Rare Bob (IRE)
7 ran Distances: 1½l, 1¾l, 2¼l
TIME 8m 21.70s (slow by 17.70s)
Dicky Johnson: "Don't think I've ever ridden a horse who tries as hard as he does. Realistically, he hated the ground today."
Balthazar King recorded his eighth victory at Cheltenham with another game success in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Prestbury Park this afternoon.
The 4/7 favourite made a couple of bad mistakes in the race but always looked like the winner turning for home and, although he had to fend off the dogged challenge of runner-up Uncle Junior, he galloped all the way to the line to record a length and a half success.
Four of his eight victories have come on the cross country course but trainer Philip Hobbs isn't tempted to go for another victory at The Festival, with the Crabbie's Grand National his major aim.
"He is a fantastic horse," said Hobbs.
"My other two winners today were great but he is phenomenal - to keep going for so long and so well. He's now won eight races here and I have just been told that he is one off the record for the number of races won at Cheltenham by a horse.
"He started off very moderately. In his first year, he won a very bad bumper at Plumpton and, in his second year, he couldn't win a novice hurdle and, in fact, fell twice. He eventually won a novice hurdle and then progressed out of all recognition.
"I think going straight to the National is the plan for two reasons, really. Although he is very, very genuine, he is definitely better fresh and secondly he doesn't want soft ground. The two things together mean that it is better to wait.
"We will do the same as last year. He will go back to his owners until coming back to us on January 1 and then we have got three months and a bit longer in case there are any hiccups getting him ready for the National."
Jockey Richard Johnson, along with Hobbs, was recording a 105/1 treble on the card following the victories of Bold Henry and Champagne West.
"I don't think that I have ever ridden a horse that tries as hard as he does," said the jockey.
"He gives it 110 per cent every time. Realistically, he hated the ground out there today.
"He made a couple of sloppy jumps because he wasn't enjoying himself and I wasn't able to be as forceful on him as usual. When you get a horse that tries as hard as he does, he does all of the work.
"I have never had a treble at Cheltenham before, so I will enjoy today."
Uncle Junior, who beat Balthazar King by 11 lengths in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase two years ago, had to settle for an honourable second place today, a length and a half behind his old rival.
Uncle Junior is 13, three years older than Balthazar King. "He's run an absolute cracker," said rider Patrick Mullins, son of the gelding's trainer Willie, "and if we were a couple of years younger we'd beat him.
"They're both brilliant horses in this type of race and great advertisements for cross country races, and the opportunities they can bring to older horses who can adapt. I would think he won't be back here for the handicap at the next meeting as he'd have to give weight away. We'd maybe keep him for the La Touche at Punchestown."
Third-placed Sire Collonges will, however, return to Cheltenham next month. "He's run a decent race today but he'll be better favoured by a handicap," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "But this winner is a legend."
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
£25,000 added, 5yo plus, 3m 7f, Class 2
Going: Good, Good to Soft in places
|Pos||Dist||Horse / Jockey||Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||Balthazar King (IRE) 4/7f
|11-8||P J Hobbs||10|
|2nd||1½||Uncle Junior (IRE) 8/1
Mr P W Mullins
|11-8||W P Mullins||13|
|3rd||1¾||Sire Collonges (FR) 8/1
|11-8||P F Nicholls||8|
|4th||2¼||Any Currency (IRE) 11/1
Nico de Boinville
|6th||65||Lambro (IRE) 25/1
M D Grant
|10-10||C J Mann||9|
|PU||Leg Iron (IRE) 66/1
|11-2||Miss S West||9|
|NR||Rare Bob (IRE)