CLARE Balding hailed a “brilliant trainer but an even better human being” after her uncle, Toby, died aged 78 on Thursday.
The renowned trainer, and older brother of Classic-winning handler Ian Balding, claimed the Aintree showpiece with Highland Wedding in 1969 and Little Polveir in 1989 during a remarkable career both over jumps and on the Flat.
He also won the Champion Hurdle with Beech Road in 1989 and Morley Street in 1991, as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Ground in 1992.
Respected broadcaster Clare Balding tweeted yesterday morning: “It’s been a long time since I cried myself to sleep but I did last night in memory of a warm-hearted, funny, generous man who saw the best in every person and every horse.
“Uncle Toby was a brilliant trainer but an even better human being. Everyone loved him.”
Eddie Harty snr rode Highland Wedding to Grand National glory and said Balding was “a colossus”.
He said: “He brought confidence. He let you ride your own race. He was a very good schooler of horses – he schooled them quietly and let them learn their job.
“He loved his grandchildren and loved his family. He was a great human being. He was like my right arm – we were attached. We both loved horses and both loved life. He was a colossus.”
Reflecting on Highland Wedding’s National success, Harty said: “He never put a foot wrong, jumped with great confidence, always going within himself. When I jumped the last, he just sprinted for me. It was one of those magical moments.”
One of the leading National Hunt riders throughout the 1990s was Adrian Maguire, who learned his trade under Balding’s stewardship.
Maguire was then launched into the big time when winning the Gold Cup on Cool Ground. “It’s very sad news and it came as a shock to me,” said Maguire. “I was only 20 when I won the Gold Cup on Cool Ground. I’d just ridden out my claim and was still eligible to ride in conditionals’ races.
“He didn’t have to give me the ride, but he did. He was a great man and was great with people. Everyone loved him and people didn’t just want a horse with Toby Balding because he was a great trainer, they wanted a horse with him just to be involved with him. He did it all. Only the best trainers win the big races on the Flat and over jumps but he did it. You could talk all day about his achievements but, most importantly, he’ll be remembered as a kind, generous man.”
Graham Bradley was Balding’s stable jockey for a couple of years and rode some of the trainer’s star horses, including Kildimo and Morley Street.
“We had a lot of fun together and won some big races,” he said. “He was a wonderful man, a brilliant trainer and an even better talker!”