Top Ville Ben (right) could be seen next in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on January 25.
Phil Kirby is weighing up a potential tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup with Top Ville Ben, and has earmarked a couple of potential races that will decide his spring target.
A facile eight-length win in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby over the festive period left Kirby pondering how far his exciting chaser could go, and with a Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup entry given to Top Ville Ben, Kirby now wants to learn whether the Beneficial gelding can build on his comfortable Rowland Meyrick success and subsequently produce the goods in top notch graded races.
With only eight weeks to go until the tapes go up at the Cheltenham Festival, Kirby will be eyeing up potentially one more run before he decides whether Top Ville Ben will take his chance in the Gold Cup, and he is set to let his exciting performer either head to Cheltenham at the end of the month for the Cotswold Chase or to Newbury to compete in the Denman Chase.
Both races are two of the key trials for the Gold Cup, Top Ville Ben is likely to come up against some stiff opposition, but Kirby is happy for his charge to take his chance. Kirby said: "Top Ville Ben is in good form and the Cotswold Chase is a possibility. He will either head to the Cotswold or the Denman Chase and that will tell us more about his Gold Cup claims.
"We entered him in the Gold Cup and he deserved an entry so we will see how that race is shaping up along with how he runs at either Cheltenham or Newbury.
"He has enjoyed a great season and it was great to see him win the Rowland Meyrick. It's very exciting to have a horse like him and hopefully there is plenty more to come from him."
Following his impressive Rowland Meyrick success, Top Ville Ben was cut from 100/1 to 66/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so he is still regarded as a huge outsider for the blue riband event, but last season he finished a fine third in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree behind Lostintranslation and Topofthegame, so has some very smart form in the book.
While Kirby is eyeing up the Gold Cup dream, the bookmakers feel that Top Ville Ben could be more likely to take his chance in the Grand National at Aintree in April - a race he is 33/1 for at the time of writing - but if he can improve on his Wetherby success and produce a promising performance at either Cheltenham or Newbury next time out, then he could be primed for a tilt at the Cheltenham Festival this season, before looking to take in the Grand National later on in his career.
Take a look at Phil Kirby's Top Ville Ben storming to an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day below...