Top Ville Ben is heading to Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase after his leisurely ride to Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.
The Phil Kirby-trained gelding won the Wetherby race in 2019 and was traveling at all odds when he set out to regain the title, before being stopped in his tracks by the fall of Empire Steel four fences from home.
The obstacle allowed eventual Good Boy winner Bobby to free himself from the bay, who recovered but was beaten for a total of 10 and a half lengths in third place when he crossed the finish line.
Sky Bet Chase on January 29 is next on the agenda for the 10-year-old, with Kirby pleased with his performance at Wetherby and his resilience after the obstruction.
“He’s really fine, the plan is very likely to go to Sky Bet Chase at the end of the month in Doncaster,” he said.
“He ran really well at Wetherby, I don’t know if (being hindered) would have made a difference with the result, but he did well to regain the advantages.
If he hadn’t been stopped he probably would have ended up ahead at some point and we don’t know what would have happened then, do we?
“I was happy, I thought it was a really good run and he seemed to like that he was coming back to himself, so let’s hope that sooner or later we’ll get him back to where he was.”
The Grand National remains an option for Top Ville Ben, who appeared to have immediately reached the famous fences in Becher Chase in Aintree in December before misjudging one outright and falling.
“I thought he jumped really good, he jumped like a horse who loved him,” Kirby said.
“He’s able to do that by overcoming an obstacle and just because he was a national fence, I don’t think it makes any difference.
“It’s just him, sometimes he doesn’t look where he’s going but he’ll have to learn!
“It’s not (the Grand National) a definitive figure, but it’s something we’ll keep an eye on, we’ll see how it fares in Doncaster and still gets an entry.”