Balthazar King clears the last to win cross-country chase at CheltenhamPICTURE: Getty Images
Balthazar King to take aim at National glory
BALTHAZAR KING is to take a second shot at a unique double so long as the rains around Liverpool do not turn the ground soft for the £1 million Crabbie's Grand National on Saturday.
His trainer Philip Hobbs said on Sunday that the winner of the cross-country chase at this month's Cheltenham Festival is on course to run in the National in a bid to become the first to win both idiosyncratic races.
A year ago Balthazar King won the cross-country chase but finished a well beaten 15th to Auroras Encore on good to soft ground having been the early pace setter.
This time around, Hobbs is hoping for better ground but may delay a decision until the day of the race.
"Balthazar King will run provided the ground doesn't get any softer than good to soft," said the trainer, who has a useful second runner in Becher Chase winner Chance Du Roy.
"They are talking about showers all week. We will decide something when we declare on Thursday but we may not be able to decide for sure until Saturday morning. We know it's not going to be good but he can cope with good to soft but not soft.
"When Balthazar King won at Cheltenham it was softer than ideal but he wouldn't want to be running in the Grand National on very soft ground."
Balthazar King is a general 25-1 chance to give Hobbs a first National win after 22 attempts, the best of which was second place for What's Up Boys 12 years ago.
Monday's six-day scratching stage for the first £1 million National will go some way to determining which horses will secure places in the 40-runner field.
Last year's Scottish National winner Godsmejudge is one of at least seven horses set to miss out from those already guaranteed a start.
Trainer Alan King said: "I couldn't get him right in time. I will give him another week to see if he can go for the Scottish National. Walkon will run and Wayne Hutchinson rides him."
Seven withdrawals would make One In A Milan the last horse in and put Swing Bill, owned by Crabbie's parent company Halewood International, on the fringe of securing a start with David Pipe having ruled out Midlands National winner Goulanes.
The going on the National course is good to soft and the forecast unsettled for the early part of the week.