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Tony McCoy leads the tributes to trainer Toby Balding

By Martin Kelly

Champion jockey Tony McCoy led the tributes to Grand National-winning trainer Toby Balding who has died aged 78.

Balding was instrumental in shaping McCoy's early years in the saddle and trained two Aintree National winners – Highland Wedding in 1969 and Little Polveir in 1989.

He also won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham with Beech Road in 1989 and Morley Street in 1991, as well as the Gold Cup with Cool Ground in 1992.

Brother of Mill Reef's trainer Ian and uncle of current leading trainer Andrew and of television presenter Clare, Balding retired from the training ranks in 2004.

Born in the United States in 1936, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2011 for services to horse racing.

His daughter Serena Geake said: "He was a great man, who loved life, horses and people."

Ulsterman McCoy said he had lost his "ultimate mentor".

"I cried when I heard the news my old boss and friend Toby Balding had died, we had great times together," he tweeted.

"He was my ultimate mentor. RIP."

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls also added his condolences on Twitter.

He said: "So sad to hear of the passing away of Toby Balding. Wonderful man who will be missed by so many. RIP."

Fellow trainer Jonjo O'Neill said: "Very saddened at the news of Toby Balding's passing. My thoughts are with his family."

Richard Johnson, so often runner-up to McCoy in the jockeys' title race, said: "Very sad news about the death of Toby Balding, a great trainer and gentleman. Sad day for his family and racing."

The Jockey Club tweeted: "Saddened to hear about Toby Balding, who holds a special place at the heart of the sport.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Top Flat trainer Roger Charlton added: "I was so sorry to hear that Toby Balding had passed away. RIP.

"What a lovely man and always so kind, good company and cleverer than most."

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