Kirby may wait with Top Ville Ben

Last Updated 5 days ago | Commercial content | 18+

Top Ville Ben

Top Ville Ben after his win at Wetherby on Boxing Day. Image via @pkirbyracing


Trainer Phil Kirby is erring towards the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Top Ville Ben, while suggesting it could be another year before he takes aim at the Randox Health Grand National.

The eight-year-old was an impressive winner of the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, prompting Kirby to suggest he was a ‘Grand National type’ in the making.

He’s re-assessing however and may head for the Cotswolds in March as the main priority this season.

Maturing all the time

In the past Top Ville Ben has been headstrong, tearing away with his rider in races. There was clear evidence at Wetherby over Christmas that he’s maturing however.

Thomas Dowson was able to anchor his mount at the rear of proceedings in the three-mile soft-ground Grade 3, which came off the back of a narrow defeat in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase in November.

Racing off a handicap mark of 154, Top Ville Ben put eight-lengths between himself and the pack at Wetherby, having moved to take up the running late on with an impressive and much more restrained display.

Afterwards, Kirby revealed his pleasure in seeing Top Ville Ben race under restraint to such good effect, admitting “he’ll have learned more today than he’s learned in his whole life”.

Cheltenham entry is worthwhile

While not willing to nail his colours to the mast just yet, Kirby is content that entering Top Ville Ben in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup was the right move.

His new handicap mark of 164 leaves little room for manoeuvre in that sphere, ensuring the Green Oaks handler is prepared to challenge his stable star in graded company before the Cotswolds extravaganza in March.

“I think he had to have an entry [in the Gold Cup] – we’d have been silly not to put him in, and we’ll see what it looks like nearer the time,” said Kirby.

“He’ll have another run before it – in either the Cotswold Chase [on Trials Day] or the Denman [at Newbury], I would think – and that will make my mind up.

“If he can hold his own at that level then he’ll probably go and take his chance. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have the opportunity.”

National aspirations on ice for now

Having just turned eight-years-old on New Year’s Day, Kirby is fully aware there is no panic in getting to the Randox Health Grand National with Top Ville Ben.

He’ll be nine when the 2021 renewals rolls around and that now appears to be something Kirby has fixed as a longer-term aspiration. For now, the Blue Riband in March is very much the race in full focus.

“We can see if he’s a Gold Cup horse this year, and if he’s not we might have a National horse for next year,” added the trainer.

“He’s going the right way. He probably has to improve another 10lb, because he’s on 164, but if he gets towards 170 then he’s got a realistic chance [in the Gold Cup].”

Latest News

Twiston-Davies Star tailor-made for National Test

While his conqueror Santini emerged a leading contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, Bristol De Mai gave the impression in Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase that he would relish the unique test that is the Grand National at Aintree. Of course having given Santini 2lb at the weekend connections could still see value in a […]

2018 National favourite Total Recall back for more

Perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has an embarrassment of riches in the staying chase department with reigning Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and his Punchestown conqueror Kemboy chief among them. It should be no surprise then that he looks to be assembling a deep squad of challengers for the Grand National. Mullins has […]

The Day Tony McCoy Fulfilled His Grand National Dream

With 4,358 winners as a jockey, there is no doubt that Tony McCoy is the greatest National Hunt rider of all time. AP was crowned Champion Jockey 20 times throughout his career, landing the title every year he was a professional. McCoy has won just about every leading National Hunt race on the calendar, including […]