Top Ville Ben fires National dream for Phil Kirby

Phil Kirby harbours dreams of a tilt at the Grand National with Top Ville Ben ahead of his planned return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The nine-year-old has won three times over fences at the West Yorkshire circuit, including a big-race victory in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase on Boxing Day of 2019.

But after finishing third behind Santini and Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham the following month, Top Ville Ben was out of action for well over a year – and was pulled up on his comeback run over hurdles at Auteuil in April.

Having been buoyed by the success of Whoshotthesheriff in Wetherby’s Bobby Renton Handicap Chase earlier in the week, Kirby is looking forward to seeing another of his stable stars return in the track’s most prestigious race on October 30.

He said: “Top Ville Ben is in good form. I put him in at Chepstow last weekend as ideally we’d have liked to have got a run into him after a long time off, but it was too quick.

“He seems grand. He’s got plenty of enthusiasm.

“We’ll go straight to Wetherby. He’s as fit as Whoshotthesheriff – they’ve done the same work and everything, so we’ll see.”

While Kirby already has one eye on the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree in the spring, he admits Top Ville Ben will need some help from the handicapper if he is going to be competitive.

“The handicapper has given him a little bit of a chance for not running – he’s dropped him from 162 to 156,” the trainer added.

“Maybe the aim would be the Grand National if he drops to a mark where you think he’ll get in and he’s on a mark where he’ll have a squeak.

“I’d rather win the Charlie Hall and not have to worry about it, though!”

Top Ville Ben sidelined after setback

Top Ville Ben is facing a spell on the sidelines after suffering a setback on Tuesday.

The eight-year-old, winner of the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby in 2019, was last seen when third behind Santini in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham back in January.

Trainer Philip Kirby had been targeting next month’s Charlie Hall Chase back at Wetherby for his 162-rated performer, but plans are now on hold.

He tweeted: “We’re gutted to say that Top Ville Ben has had a setback on Tuesday morning after an away gallop, that means he will be off work until Christmas time.

“He’s comfortable and will just be resting on his laurels for a bit.

“We would be very hopeful he’d be back in time for the spring meetings if fully recovered, and if all goes to plan, he should be.”