Toby Balding, whose success as a jumps trainer included two Grand Nationals, two Champion Hurdles and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, died on Thursday at the age of 78.
The brother of former trainer Ian and uncle of trainer Andrew and broadcaster Clare, Balding started training at the age of just 21, taking over the licence on the death of his father. Though predominantly associated with National Hunt racing, he also sent out the winners of the Ayr Gold Cup and Stewards’ Cup during a long and distinguished career until his retirement in 2011.
Dual success in the Grand National came his way via Highland Wedding (1969) and Little Polveir (1989), while Beech Road and Morley Street gave him two Champion Hurdle victories in three years in 1989 and 1991. His clean sweep of jump racing’s biggest prizes came when Cool Ground won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1992.
The chaser was ridden by Adrian Maguire, one of a number of jockeys whose talent was spotted early by Balding and whose career was greatly enhanced by the trainer’s tutelage. Another was the current champion jump jockey, AP McCoy, who said of his former mentor: “We had great times together. Tonight I cried when I heard the news my old boss and friend had died.”
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls added his own tribute, saying on Twitter: “So sad to hear of the passing away of a wonderful man who will be missed by so many.”
Along with his significant achievements as a trainer, Balding will be remembered as the founder of the National Trainers Federation and honorary member of the Jockey Club, while his lifelong commitment to the sport he loved included his role as an independent director of the BHA.