Top Ville Ben is heading for Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase after his pleasing run in the Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.
The Phil Kirby-trained gelding won the Wetherby race in 2019 and was travelling with every chance when bidding to regain his title, before being stopped in his tracks by the falling Empire Steel four fences from home.
The hindrance allowed eventual winner Good Boy Bobby to surge clear of the bay, who rallied but was beaten a total of 10 and a half lengths in third when he crossed the line.
The Sky Bet Chase on January 29 is next on the agenda for the 10-year-old, with Kirby pleased with his Wetherby performance and his resilience after the obstruction.
“He’s really well, the plan is most likely to go to the Sky Bet Chase at the end of the month at Doncaster,” he said.
“He ran really well at Wetherby, I don’t know if it (being hampered) would have made a difference with the result, but he did well to get back upsides.
“If he hadn’t have been stopped he would have probably ended up in front at some point and we don’t know what would have happened then, do we?
“I was pleased, I thought it was a good run really and he looked liked he was coming back to himself, so hopefully sooner or later we’ll have him back to where he was.”
The Grand National remains an option for Top Ville Ben, who appeared to take instantly to the famous fences in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December before seeming to misjudge one entirely and falling.
“I thought he jumped really well, he jumped like a horse that loved it,” Kirby said.
“He is capable of doing that over a hurdle and just because it was a National fence, I don’t think that makes any difference.
“It’s just him, sometimes he doesn’t look where he’s going but he’ll have to learn!
“It’s (the Grand National) not a definite but it’s something we’ll keep an eye on, we’ll see how he gets on at Doncaster and he’ll be getting an entry anyway.”