Tony McCoy feels the bookmakers have it wrong and that it will be his mount, Purple Bay, who is "most likely" to chase home the unbeaten Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.

John Ferguson's five-year-old, who finished a fine seventh in the Galway Hurdle, took his form to a new level when staying on strongly to win the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last time out.

That race is remembered for Irving's last flight fall but the way Purple Bay finished off Irving would have had to be at the top of his game to fend off Purple Bay.

While McCoy thinks it is unlikely Willie Mullins' Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen will be beaten, he believes Purple Bay might be the one to give him most to do.

"Faugheen won well at Ascot over two-miles-three and he's a very smart horse," said the champion jockey in his William Hill podcast.

"He won over three miles last year, dropped down to two and a half to win at Cheltenham and then two miles at Punchestown. His form is very solid and he's a worthy Champion Hurdle favourite.

"The others have to step up. Irving was a good enough winner of the Fighting Fifth but this is a step up again, Sign Of A Victory won well at Ascot but that was a handicap and I was second on Sgt Reckless at Aintree to Josses Hill so he was a good novice.

"My ride Purple Bay was a good winner at Wincanton and while Faugheen is the one to beat I think Purple Bay is most likely to chase him home.

"I don't think there was any fluke about his Wincanton form. Irving fell at the last and I don't think there would have been much between them so I think he's a lot better value than what Irving is to follow him (Faugheen) home, so I'd take a chance on Purple Bay each-way."

Owner Rich Ricci hopes the decision to send Faugheen across the Irish Sea for the second time this season will pay dividends.
One of last season's star novices following breathtaking displays at Cheltenham and Punchestown, the six-year-old made a flying start to the new campaign in last month's Coral Hurdle at Ascot.

The obvious home target for the current Champion Hurdle favourite would have been the Ryanair Hurdle on December 29, but with esteemed stable companion Hurricane Fly set to meet current champion Jezki at Leopardstown, Faugheen heads for Sunbury.

Ricci said: "There isn't much for him. I've got 50 or 60 horses with Willie and Christmas time in Ireland will see a match between Jezki and Hurricane Fly in the Ryanair Hurdle.

"Being a second second-season novice, I'm not keen to take those two on too quickly.

"The Christmas Hurdle seems like a great race to take in.

"I've a lot of respect for Irving and Paul Nicholls, of course, but we will have to see what happens.

"I'd love to win the Christmas Hurdle."

Irving provided Paul Nicholls with his 100th Grade One win at Newcastle and Dan Downie, racing manager for the Axom syndicate, is looking forward to another good run.

"If ever we're going to beat Faugheen you'd have to think it will be here," said Downie.

"He (Irving) won the Dovecote there last year so the track suits him and he'll like the ground. If we could hand-pick a course for Irving, Kempton would be right up there.

"We'll know where we are after this, that's for sure, and we're really looking forward to it."