In the spring, The Horse Comes First reported on the first class care and treatment being given to Balthazar King after the eleven-year-old gelding had incurred serious injuries following a fall in this year’s Grand National at Aintree.
Now after nine months of rest, care and rehabilitation, Balthazar King has returned to trainer Philip Hobbs’s yard in Somerset to resume full exercise. It is fitting that the horse who shares his name with one of the Three Wise Men should make his journey back to his own stable in the week before Christmas.
The 11-year-old was among the favourites to win the Grand National when he was injured and fractured ribs in a fall at the Canal Turn fence. He immediately received expert care from the racecourse vets before being taken to Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital to receive further treatment.
The popular horse captured the hearts of racing fans as he spent six weeks at the University of Liverpool Equine Hospital before being transferred to his part-owner's home in Hampshire, where cards from well-wishers bedecked his stable door and beyond.
Hobbs, who welcomed the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner back to his yard in Minehead this week, told the Racing Post: "He's fantastic and looks really well.
"He's been ridden down at his owner Dave Rees's farm in Hampshire for the last few months. He did a fair bit of cantering before he came back and he cantered this morning and was fine. It's amazing all the cards he had after his injury. The public interest has been fantastic."
An eight-time winner at Cheltenham, Balthazar King landed the cross-country chase at the festival in 2012 and 2014, and Hobbs said: "He'll go straight for that race again. He won't run before that."
Some of the cards for Balthazar King, who was collected from Liverpool and taken to Hampshire by his devoted groom and work-rider Hannah Ball, included money with a request to buy him carrots and Polos, of which he could not get enough, along with visits from well-wishers.
Chris Butler, who shares ownership under The Brushmakers banner, told the Racing Post: "He went back to Philip's yard yesterday and is very fresh and looks well. He's been hunting and been doing only light work, but he's at that stage where he's ready to come back into full training.
"We're not certain he'll race again but we're hopeful. He'll let us know and he won't run before the cross-country at Cheltenham as he always runs best when he's fresh."
A study by Liverpool University found that 62% of “traumatic injuries” (ranging from grazes to fractures) suffered by a sample of leisure and competition horses occurred when turned out in the field, compared to only 13% during ridden exercise. British Racing is committed to providing the best possible standards of veterinary care for its horses and has invested, via the Horserace Betting Levy Board, over £27 million since 2000 in Veterinary Research and Education. The sport's substantial investment in Veterinary Research and Education brings benefits for all breeds of horse in Britain.