Tag Archive for: Top Ville Ben

Kirby looking towards Topham target for Ben

Phil Kirby’s popular campaigner Top Ville Ben could head next for the Topham Chase at Aintree.

The 11-year-old was pulled up when seen most recently in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival, but prior to that he was a gallant third in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase in early February.

The gelding already has some experience of the Grand National track having run in both the Becher and the National itself last season.

He may have pulled up before the third fence from home in the latter race, but he jumped well up until that point despite being seriously hampered on landing at the 10th.

Top Ville Ben at Aintree in 2019
Top Ville Ben at Aintree in 2019 (Paul Harding/PA)

Kirby will school the horse at home after feeling his jumping was less than fluent at Cheltenham, and a satisfactory session will see him head back to Aintree for the two-mile-five-furlong handicap.

The trainer said: “He’s an entry in the Topham, so that’s the plan at the moment.

“He was just a bit sticky at Cheltenham so we’re going to school him at home.

“We’ll school him and if he jumps well then the plan will be to go there, but he’s come out of the race at Cheltenham absolutely fine.”

Phil Kirby nominates Topham target for Top Ville Ben

Phil Kirby is eyeing the Randox Topham Chase for Top Ville Ben following his brave third at Leopardstown during the Dublin Racing Festival.

The forward-going 11-year-old was one of only three UK raiders to line-up in Ireland over the course of the two-day meeting,but that enterprise was rewarded when the Green Oaks Farm stalwart brought home €13,500 of prize-money for connections following his placed effort in the Bulmers Leopardstown Handicap Chase.

Although sent off a rather unfancied 28-1 in the hands of Thomas Dowson, he gave a bold sight – jumping and galloping with aplomb close to the pace and only giving way late in the day to eventual winner The Goffer and Glamorgan Duke who picked up the silver medal.

Kirby was delighted to see the adaptable son of Beneficial run to form and also praised the warm hospitality both himself and Top Ville Ben’s owners received at Leopardstown.

He said: “He ran really well and we were really pleased.

“Obviously we would have liked to have won but the horse ran really well, the owners had a brilliant time and we were all very well looked after. It’s just a shame the ground dried up a little bit. I think with softer ground, he would have finished even closer.

“There were no excuses though, everything went to plan really and we were sat where we wanted to be and we came there with every chance – he just wasn’t quite good enough on the day. He’s done everything right though and I suppose he’s a bit exposed being a bit older than the rest of them.

“We gave our running, ran and jumped well and it was a great day out. You would certainly go back and it was good prize-money – it was definitely worth going that’s for sure.

“Hopefully there will be another nice day for him as long as the handicapper doesn’t do anything drastic – or anything at all really. I think he’s about right where he is.”

Top Ville Ben (left), The Goffer (centre) and Glamorgan Duke (right) jump the last in the Bulmers Leopardstown Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on Day two of the Dublin Racing Festival (
Top Ville Ben (left), The Goffer (centre) and Glamorgan Duke (right) jump the last in the Bulmers Leopardstown Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on Day two of the Dublin Racing Festival (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Ground will determine if Top Ville Ben will run again before his spring target and tackling the Grand National fences for a third time at Aintree on April 14.

“The main plan now will be the Topham,” continued Kirby. “Whether we have a run in between or not, we will have to see how things pan out. It’s a dry forecast so I can’t see anything happening too soon, but the plan would be hopefully we get some nice ground at Aintree and we’ll have a go at the Topham.

“I think if we got some soft ground he would go there with a nice chance. Although I think the drier it is, his chance dries up a bit with it. The more rain, the more in his favour it would be.”

Conditions are also set to dictate where Jason The Militant will be next seen with an outing at the Cheltenham Festival an option, provided rain arrives to slow the ground up at Prestbury Park.

“We’re a bit stuck with him really as he is probably a bit more ground dependent than Ben,” added Kirby.

“We’ll have to see how things go but there is a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival (County Hurdle) he can run in and there is also the Champion Hurdle. If that was to cut up and it came up soft, then there is probably worse places we could go to try to pick up some good prize-money.”

He went on: “I thought he ran really well for his first run back and he probably needed it a little bit. He didn’t do an awful lot wrong really, he was just given an impossible task in a handicap first time out for a while.

“We needed to get a run into him and the ground was a bit too quick but we got away with it. I wouldn’t really want to run him on ground like that too often.”

Kirby planning Leopardstown raid for Top Ville Ben

Top Ville Ben is set to be tasked with a raiding mission to the Dublin Racing Festival having seen an intended engagement at Lingfield lost to the recent cold snap.

Phil Kirby’s 11-year-old was primed to defend his Cazoo Hurdle title during the Surrey track’s Winter Million weekend, but will now revert to fences for the Bulmers Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on February 5.

British runners have been in short supply at the Dublin track’s two-day showpiece, but Kirby has taken over Lady Buttons to mix it with Ireland’s best in the past and believes his stable stalwart has a fair chance of getting in the shake-up if reproducing his best.

Top Ville Ben clears a hurdle on his way to winning the Cazoo Hurdle during day one of The Winter Million Festival at Lingfield Park last year
Top Ville Ben clears a hurdle on his way to winning the Cazoo Hurdle during day one of The Winter Million Festival at Lingfield Park last year (Simon Marper/PA)

He said: “He’s most likely going there and that’s the plan at the moment. He’s a bit limited to where he can go but the owners are going to go over there, so I think that is where we are going to head.

“It’s a big prize and it’s going to be very competitive, but it is the sort of race we have to run in, so we’ll go over and give it a good go.

“Obviously you need to be very well handicapped for these races and whether we are or not, I’m not sure, but he’s probably at least fairly handicapped on the best of his form.

“I don’t mind going over there. If the owners can have a good day out and the horse has a chance, I’ll go anywhere.”

Kirby has also had to reroute new recruit Jason The Militant, who saw designated outings at both Lingfield and Haydock lost to the weather.

The former Henry de Bromhead inmate, who transferred to North Yorkshire for £50,000, is now poised to appear at Cheltenham on Saturday in handicap company where he will have to shoulder the burden of top weight in the SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle.

He continued: “It’s certainly not ideal and the plan was definitely to run last weekend. But we are again a bit limited on what we do now and the ground is drying up as well.

“I think we’re just going to have to go and make a start to be honest. I did look in Ireland and there’s very little in Ireland for him as well, so I just thought we’ll most likely go there (Cheltenham), make a start and then work from there.

“Hopefully it won’t dry up too much, but we need to get a run into him as he’s been off long enough. He’s been grand, but I just think the ground might dry up more than ideal for him. We’ll go and see where we are.”

Jason The Militant ready to roll for new connections

Phil Kirby is keeping his options open for new recruit Jason The Militant, who is poised to make his stable bow this weekend.

The nine-year-old is entered in the £110,000 Sovereign Handicap Hurdle on day one of Lingfield’s Winter Million weekend on Friday – where he would have to shoulder top weight – while Kirby has also given him an entry in Haydock’s New One Unibet Hurdle on Saturday and the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Hurdle back at Lingfield on Sunday.

Twice a winner in Graded company over hurdles when trained by Henry de Bromhead in Ireland, his best performance for his former handler was perhaps when finishing a half-length third to Abacadabras in Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle in 2020.

The son of Sans Frontieres is also a Listed winner on the Flat and having made the recent switch to North Yorkshire for £50,000, his new trainer is hoping to enjoy some nice days out under both codes in the year ahead.

“He’s been absolutely grand, he’s very straightforward,” said Kirby. “We schooled him the other day and he jumped well and the plan was always to run in these sort of races.

“He’s got a few bits available to him (this weekend) just to give us the best chance. We’re not going to pick one yet.

“The ground will be ideal for him because he’ll love bottomless ground, so it’s come at the right time really.”

On further plans for Jason The Militant, he added: “We’ll see where we are and work from there.

“I imagine he would struggle in handicaps off his mark (154), so we will try to find these small-field conditions races, see if we can pick up some prize money and have some nice days out with him.

“We’ll definitely have a go on the Flat in some nice places when there is soft ground. He’s been bought to go to some nice places, but he might be a little bit ground dependent, so we may have to pick the right time.”

Top Ville Ben on his way to winning on the Winter Millions card last year
Top Ville Ben on his way to winning on the Winter Millions card last year (Simon Marper/PA)

Kirby’s stable stalwart Top Ville Ben will also be in action this weekend when he attempts to win Lingfield’s Cazoo Handicap Hurdle for the second year in a row.

“It has always to be the plan to go back down there and we’ve worked everything around that a little bit,” continued Kirby.

“He seems in good form and is off a nice mark. I know he’s getting older, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping him too much yet, so we’ll go there hopeful.”