PHIL KIRBY believes there’s “even more to come” after Top Ville Ben galloped his rivals into the ground to land the prestigious Rowland Meyrick Chase – Wetherby’s feature race on Boxing Day.
Eight on New Year’s Day, the North Yorkshire trainer says he will now consider a Grand National entry after the horse carried 11st 11lb to victory under jockey Tommy Dowson. Other big races will also have to come under consideration as a result of the horse’s rise up the handicap.
But Catterick-based Kirby was more impressed with how the horse, owned by the Harbour Rose Partnership, settled under Dowson who bided his time before taking up the running with a circuit to go.
He credited Jennie Durrans, one of the team of work riders at his Green Oaks stables, for taming this former “tearaway” of a horse who could, according to Kirby, be “an idiot”.
“She does everything with him – she even comes in on her days off to ride him. I’m just as pleased with how he settled as I am with the win,” the winning trainer told The Yorkshire Post.
“You could get away with it in smaller races last season, but now we’re stepping up in grade, it is going to make things easier as we look to the future and plan where to go.”
An exciting novice last season, Top Ville Ben at Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase at his mercy last month before being caught in the shadow of the winning post.
However, as bottom weight Didero Vallis made the running at Wetherby, Dowson allowed his mount to get into a nice rhythm in a race run on very testing ground.
Yet, after taking the lead at the 10th of 19 fences, Top Ville Ben was never headed – his athleticism and fluency at his fences kept him in pole position – and the young jockey was sat motionless as the front four horses turned into the home straight.
Another big and bold jump at the final obstacle secured victory for the well-backed 3-1 favourite who had eight lengths in hand over Didero Vallis with 2018 winner Lake View Lad plugging on for third after falling out of contention at one point. The veteran Wakanda was fourth.
“The horse is growing up so much,” added Kirby. “He will have learned more today, running behind horses for nearly a circuit, than he has in his whole life. Whatever he does this year, he will be better next season.”
Asked if next year’s Grand National was a likely target, Kirby added: “He’s a National-type horse. Whether it is this season, we will find out in the fullness of time.”
As for Dowson, he admits that he got “too excited” three out in the aforementioned Rehearsal Chase and was grateful for the chance to redeem himself in the saddle.
He said it was important, as a young jockey who lost his conditional rider’s claim earlier this year, that he rides in such races for his primary trainer.
The rider added: “He gave me a great spin. He used to rock ‘n roll from the front but he’s a lot more straightforward to ride now he settles.”
Kirby and Dowson were completing a double after Theflickeringlight won the handicap hurdle on a good day for Yorkshire-trained horses.
Other local successes were Ruth Jefferson’s fast finishing Clondaw Caitlin under Henry Brooke; Jo Foster’s Sigurd who was stylishly ridden by Jamie Hamilton and the Danny Cook-ridden Flamboyant Joyaux who took the finale for the ever popular Sue and Harvey Smith team.