Top Ville Ben returned to winning ways when making every yard of the running to win the Cazoo Hurdle at Lingfield.
A classy chaser at his best, he won the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby back in 2019 but having run in the Cotswold Chase after that, he was then off the track for 18 months with an injury.
He made his comeback in a Grade Two in France but the style of racing and fences did not suit him at Auteuil and he was pulled up.
Since then he has finished down the field when outclassed in the Charlie Hall Chase, but he was still travelling well when falling on the second circuit in the Becher Chase.
A fine third in the Rowland Meyrick under a big weight on Boxing Day, he was having his first run over British hurdles since April 2018 but appeared to love the experience.
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Allowed to set steady fractions, Alain Cawley, riding for Phil Kirby, lobbed around on the first circuit before quickening the tempo going down the back straight.
That was where the favourite On The Blind Side began to struggle, but both the outsider Dan McGrue and Emitom were still in touching distance.
Once Cawley asked his mount for more, though, Top Ville Ben (6-1) pricked his ears and went clear to win by two and three-quarter lengths.
Neil Hassall, co-owner, said: “It is his ground, isn’t it? He has shown it in the past but getting the ground like it is today isn’t always easy.
“It was a great decision and a brave decision by Phil to go back hurdling. He is a funny horse – he can trip over two barrels on the wrong day as he has shown. I don’t think it was as silly an idea as it looked. They put on great prize money, so why not?
“Truthfully, we would like to go to the Grand National with him. We thought, in the Becher, when he fell, he was loving it. He forgets to think where he is going. He has done it over hurdles at Haydock. He fell at Cheltenham in the RSA, he fell over in the Becher. He will fall over two barrels on the wrong day and jump over a 10-foot fence on a good day. That’s him.
“Whether we get the ground in the National, who knows. He will probably have one more run between now and then, but that’s Phil’s call.
“He might run at Doncaster in the Grimthorpe at the end of February.”