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King wins and could be crowned at National

By Tom Peacock

Grand National runner-up Balthazar King struck for the eighth time at Cheltenham on an opening afternoon of the Open Meeting which belonged to Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson.

There had already been a one-two for the Minehead combination among three in total, but the performance of the cross-country champion stood above the others.

Twice a winner at the Festival itself, 10-year-old Balthazar King knows his way around the unusual track's twists and turns.

After justifying 4-7 favouritism in the Glenfarclas-sponsored feature by a length and a half from his old adversary Uncle Junior, the gelding moved closer to the record number of Cheltenham victories, 10, held by Silver Fame since the early 1950s.

"He's just phenomenal the way he keeps going," said Hobbs.

"He's not far from the record but I suppose he'll only be running here once a year now.

"He'd have too much weight for the December meeting and he's best fresh so we'll get him ready for the Grand National.

"You'd love to come here for the Festival, but we thought that if he hadn't run in it this year he might have gone closer (than second) in the National."

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