Cross-country specialist Balthazar King defied top weight with a narrow victory over Any Currency in the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Winner of this specialist contest in 2012, the Philip Hobbs-trained 10-year-old just denied Any Currency by a short head after a mighty tussle in the hands of Richard Johnson.

Big Shu, the winner 12 months ago, was two lengths away in third with Duke Of Lucca fourth.

Johnson said: "He's just amazing. I thought it would be difficult off top weight, but he never stops trying.

"He just wants to win. He's a real front-runner but he saved a little bit for the end."

Hobbs said: "Balthazar King keeps coming year after year after year.
"He's essentially just very genuine.

"He stays very well and he's very clever.

"He kept on going and stayed on well, but I wasn't sure whether he'd won at the line."

Sire Collonges had made the running with Any Currency and Duke Of Lucca, a stablemate of the winner, also handy from the outset.

There was little change in the order until the final circuit where Any Currency went on under Ian Popham but his move was covered by Johnson on Balthazar King.

Big Shu, the 3-1 favourite, was brought into the race quietly by Paul Carberry but he could not quite get to the first two, who fought out a battle royal up the hill after three miles seven furlongs and 32 fences.

Martin Keighley, trainer of runner-up Any Currency, said: "I'm gutted. It was a great run and Ian gave him a fantastic ride.

"He really deserved to win something like that.

"He's always been a bit of a monkey, but the course suits him and he's a relentless galloper."