Many reading this might share that sentiment because Purple Bay’s profile is far removed from that of a typical champion hurdler these days. Musselburgh, Stratford, and Taunton have been his stamping grounds rather than Cheltenham, Sandown and Newbury.
He’s not trained by Nicholls or Henderson, but by John Ferguson. The jock who’s had most success on him is a 7lb claimer. But the manner of his victory in the Elite Hurdle last Saturday bore the stamp of a fast-improving horse, for whom a solid plan has been laid out.
Irving’s last flight fall in the race seems to have diverted attention from Purple Bay’s performance. He was first to come under pressure when hitting a flat spot turning into the straight, but when he got back on the bridle, he came away from his pursuers with ease and won with some authority, ears pricked and it took Mikey Ennis a while to pull up.
That was his first run since finishing 7 of 20 in the Galway Hurdle, a race which came within 12 days of his easy Market Rasen victory. I suspect his runs will be a bit more spaced out from now. He has an entry in the Fighting Fifth on November 29th.
At this time last year, Purple Bay had an official rating of 130. It’s now 161. The current champion hurdler Jezki is rated 169. At the front of the festival market are Jezki, Faugheen and The New One, a horse I’ve always liked but one I now believe is just lacking that killer touch.
I’m not saying Purple Bay will win the Champion, but 50s is way too big in my opinion. The experts believe the horse has quirks; other than the habit of hitting a flat spot, (and he seems to run around a bit approaching some flights) I’ve seen nothing to worry me enough not to back him at that price. He’s just 5 and will still be learning. He wouldn’t want to hit that flat spot at a critical stage in a Champion Hurdle, but the hill should be a significant advantage to his racing style.
If he turns up at Newcastle, we’ll learn an awful lot more about him. For now, I’m content to take the chance.
Good luck – and for those unused to ante-post betting, the usual warning: if your horse does not run in the event, your money is lost.