Wincanton: Purple Bay proves Elite as Irving crashes out
Purple Bay took advantage of a final flight fall from the 7/4 favourite Irving to take the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle on a cracking days racing at Wincanton. Trained by John Ferguson, Purple Bay had threatened to be a top novice last season but eventually landed his first Graded race victory in fine style today under a delighted Mikey Ennis.
It had been billed as a match up between top novice Irving and former Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby before the off but Purple Bay had been fancied by some to cause a surprise at a very generous price of 16/1. Granted there was some luck involved in the outcome but the ease in which the winner went clear in the closing stages suggests that it may not have made much difference in the end.
Rock On Ruby had been keen to make it a stamina test from the off under Noel Fehily but soon found recent all the way Chepstow winner Bertimont for company. Bertimont put in an exhibition of jumping throughout and moved to the front of the field still travelling well on the turn in.
Rock On Ruby, who was giving nearly a stone to his nearest rival, soon began to fade, so it was left to Irving to come through and challenge Dan Skelton’s charge. The favourite was just about to hit the front approaching the last but this is where the race changed dramatically, with Irving taking a crashing fall, leaving a tiring Bertimont alone in front.
Purple Bay, who had been on and off the bridle for most of the 2 mile contest, eventually began to run on under Ennis’ urgings and went clear to score by an impressive 4 lengths from the staying on Bertimont. The gallant Rock On Ruby finished third.
Earlier on the card, Irving’s trainer Paul Nicholls enjoyed better luck when his impressive Southfield Theatre continued his fine start to jumping the larger obstacles in taking the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase under Sam Twiston-Davies. The 6yo had put in some dodgy jumps on his chasing debut at Chepstow last time but was foot perfect here in taking his record to two from two, confirming his spot as one of this season’s leading novices.
Also on the card, The Young Master was an impressive winner of the Badger Ales Trophy for Neil Mulholland and Barry Geraghty but it turned out to be a controversial win as it was found out later that the winner may not have actually been qualified to run in the race.
It had been discovered later on in the day, that one of the rules to qualify for the Listed Handicap Chase was that runners must have competed in three starts over fences. Given that The Young Master has only had two starts over the larger obstacles, wins at Worcester and Cheltenham, he obviously was not qualified to run. Stewards were looking into the controversy later in the evening.
By Kevin Walsh / Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
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