Philip Hobbs avoided the temptation of the Cheltenham Festival this year with his mount, Balthazar King, in order to get his horse 100% right for the Grand National next month.
The former Cross Country Chase winner could have lined up in the race once again but has not been seen since finishing second to Uncle Junior on the same course at Prestbury Park back in November.
He opened his account this season in a handicap chase at Cheltenham over 3m where he edged out Galaxy Rock and Hold on Julio in a tight finish on the opening meeting of the season from the premier course for national hunt racing.
The nine-year old will be having his first shot at the Grand National fences this year. He is unlikely to have any problems for stamina over the 4m4f trip. He has won in races all the way up to 3m7f in trip and Hobbs in confident he will relish the step up even further in Merseyside.
Balthazar King is renowned for being a specialist on the cross country course at Cheltenham where the biggest victory of his career came at the Festival in 2012. That win broke Ireland’s domination in the race as they had previous won all seven of the runnings of the race since it was introduced to the programme in 2005.
Hobbs could also have Quinz running for him in the Grand National. The French recruit was pulled up in the race two years but put a decent showing in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton has given horse racing odds writers confidence that he could run a much better race this time around.
That run was his first in just under two-years where he surprised the horse racing betting to come home fourth in a race he had previously won in 2011.