The 2015 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival will be run in honour of the late Toby Balding OBE.
The four-mile contest for novice chasers takes place on the first day of The Festival, Tuesday, 10th March, Champion Day.
Toby Balding died on 25th September 2014 at the age of 78 and his memorial service was held at Marlborough College on Monday, 15th December.
He trained over 2,000 winners over Jumps and on the Flat during the course of his career and was especially at home at The Festival, where his 11 victories included two Champion Hurdles (1989 Beech Road & 1991 Morley Street) plus the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1992 Cool Ground). There were also two successes in the National Hunt Chase – Lucky Vane in 1981 and Boraceva in 1989.
He sent out two winners of the Grand National (1969 Highland Wedding and 1989 Little Polveir) at Aintree, giving him the rare distinction of having trained winners of Jump Racing’s three biggest prizes.
Balding was a noted mentor of young jockeys, having nurtured the most successful Jump jockey of all-time, 19-time champion AP McCoy, as well as other leading riders such as Bob Champion, Richard Linley and Adrian Maguire.
Always a positive contributor to the racing industry, he helped found the National Trainers’ Federation and also served on the board of the British Horseracing Authority. In recognition of his efforts, he was elected an honorary member of the Jockey Club in 2005 and was awarded an OBE for services to racing in 2011.
His training career began on the death of his father Gerald, saddling his first winner on the Flat at Ascot on 26th September, 1957. At the age of 20, he was the youngest trainer in the country at the time. He held a licence for 47 years up until his retirement in 2004. For the majority of his career, he was based in Hampshire.
The Balding racing dynasty also includes Toby’s younger brother Ian, a highly-successful Flat trainer who sent out the outstanding 1971 Derby winner Mill Reef from Kingsclere. Andrew Balding, who took over the training licence at Kingsclere from Ian in 2003, is Toby’s nephew with leading broadcaster Clare Balding his niece.
Toby Balding’s daughter, Serena Geake, welcomed the initiative. She said: “The whole family are honoured and delighted to have a race named after Dad at the Festival this year; and he would be too!
“He adored Cheltenham and had an enviable record with two Champion Hurdles and a Gold Cup under his belt to name but a few of the races he won there. We are all looking forward to the day with great excitement.”
Ian Renton, Regional Director Jockey Club Racecourses South West, commented: “I am delighted that we are able to remember Toby Balding at The Festival, with a race named in his honour.
“Toby was such a renowned figure within the racing industry, both as a trainer and through his work with the National Trainers Federation and British Horseracing Authority so it is fitting that the four-mile chase on the opening day of The Festival will be the Toby Balding National Hunt Chase.”
First staged in 1860, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times – 144 – than any other race at The Festival.
Until the 1930s, only the Grand National was more important than the National Hunt Chase in the Jump calendar.
The race took place at a number of venues until it became a part of the new two-day National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham in 1911. Two earlier renewals were run at Cheltenham, in 1904 and 1905.
Toby Balding’s 11 winners at The Festival
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: 1990 Forest Sun
National Hunt Chase: 1981 Lucky Vane, 1989 Boraceva
Mildmay Of Flete Handicap Chase: 1961 Malting Barley, 1973 Vulgan Town
County Hurdle: 1987 Neblin
Sun Alliance Chase: 1987 Kildimo
Champion Hurdle: 1989 Beech Road, 1991 Morley Street
Cheltenham Gold Cup: 1992 Cool Ground