Top Ville Ben gives Kirby Aintree notions
— Steve Mullington (@mulldog) 27 December 2019
Trainer Phil Kirby is already starting to ponder a possible tilt at the Aintree Grand National with Top Ville Ben following his decisive Boxing Day success at Wetherby.
The seven-year-old has previously displayed tendencies of being a bit of a tearaway but he’s clearly maturing well and is showing the talent connections have always felt he possessed.
Well beaten on his seasonal bow in the Charlie Hall at the West Yorkshire track in October, Top Ville Ben was then narrowly beaten in the Rehearsal at Newcastle on heavy ground.
In both those instances he raced in his regular front-running slot but it was a different tale on Boxing Day in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase.
Thomas Dowson was able to anchor his mount at the rear of proceedings in the three-mile soft-ground Grade 3, Top Ville Ben racing with restraint.
They moved steadily into contention as the race progressed and took up the running at the tenth fence, an advantage they would never relinquish.
Racing off a handicap mark of 154, Top Ville Ben put eight-lengths between himself and the chasing pack at the winning line; a career-best effort.
The Randox Health Grand National is creeping into Kirby’s thoughts, while he’ll also be pondering an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Finding another handicap from his revised BHA mark will prove a major headache.
“The only race I could see for him was the Sky Bet at Doncaster, but whether he can jump above that now I don’t know. He’s a National type but whether that’s this season or not we’ll find out,” said Kirby.
“He’s creeping up the handicap but that’s better than coming down it. I’ll have to think about whether we enter him for the Gold Cup.”
The Green Oaks Farm handler knows how important it can prove to see that Top Ville Ben is now a more mature performer, willing to be tactically adaptable.
The more patient approach will certainly reap dividends should they ever make it to Aintree for the marathon in the spring. Kirby was clearly keen on the idea of education his stable star.
“You can’t keep making it every time. He’s grown up so much now and he’ll have learned more today than he’s learned in his whole life. That’s massive for the future,” he added.
“He used to be a runaway, he used to be free and run away every time. Because he was so talented he got away with it in the old days whereas now you can’t do that.
Top Ville Ben has been to Aintree before, finishing third in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the Grand National Festival back in the spring; strong form as the race was won by Lostintranslation with Kirby’s runner just forfeiting second spot to RSA Chase winner Topofthegame in the dying strides, having cut out the running.
As he gets set to turn eight-years-old on New Year’s Day, Top Ville Ben has plenty time on his side and could cut his teeth in the Grand National in 2020 after the impressive nature of his Wetherby Christmas success.