Top Ville Ben, one of the most exciting young chasers in the north, will begin his eagerly awaited campaign in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday 2nd November.
Trained at East Appleton near Catterick by Philip Kirby, the seven-year-old is owned by the Harbour Rose Partnership who are hoping their pride and joy will take them on an exciting journey all the way to the Cheltenham Gold Cup – or even the Grand National.
Kirby told In The Paddock: “The Charlie Hall has been our initial target since the end of last season and we couldn’t be happier with him. Preparations have gone well, including a racecourse gallop at Wetherby recently.
“He went a mile and a half with Whoshotthesheriff, who is also a very promising young horse, and finished hard on the bridle. It was an ideal preparation.”
The former Nicky Henderson gelding, who dominated a three-mile novice chase at the West Yorkshire track back in March, was ridden by his regular work rider Jennie Durrans.
“He’s a quirky horse who thrives on his routine,” she explained. “I’ve ridden him every day since he arrived at Phil’s two years ago and we understand each other. I’ve come to expect the unexpected and we always work him in a hood, which helps to settle him.”
Kirby is well aware of the size of the task in the Charlie Hall but is relishing the challenge. “He’s going to have to improve on what he did last season, even though he produced some very smart form, but he’s a progressive young horse and I can’t wait to go to war with him.”
Jimmy McInerney, an enthusiastic member of the Harbour Rose Partnership, is counting down the hours to the big race. “Winning the Charlie Hall would be a dream come true, but that’s what we’re in this game for.
“We hope Ben can go all the way in the chasing ranks this season and personally I’d love to see him end up at Aintree. The Grand National has always been my favourite race – I wouldn’t sleep for the next six months if that were the case.”
Fellow syndicate member Bernard Dolan has other hopes. “The Gold Cup would be wonderful. I’ve been involved in a lot of horses but the journey we are on with Top Ville Ben is incredibly exciting.”
If everything goes to plan at Wetherby, Kirby is keen to head to Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy – formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup – at the end of November, en route to Cheltenham or even Aintree.
Top Ville Ben, a £32,000 purchase from Seven Barrows in May 2017, has won at Haydock, Hexham and twice at Wetherby for the Harbour Rose Partnership but arguably ran his finest race at Aintree back in April.
He only just failed to hold on to second behind the potential superstars Lostintranslation and Topofthegame in the Grade 1 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
“He ran a stormer that day and proved that he deserves to take his chance in the big races this season,” added Kirby.
“It made up for the disappointment of falling in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was travelling well at the time but made a mistake and came down.
“Sean Quinlan, who gets on well with him, blamed himself for trying to organise him, and insists he’ll be letting Ben find his own stride in future. Sean’s a very good jockey and can’t wait to get back on board this season.”