For Brave Inca has always favoured substance over style, but his performance at Fairyhouse yesterday satisfied on neither count. Even though Asian Maze failed to muster the expected challenge, the champion hurdler was flat out to hold another exhausted rival, Rosaker, in the Ballymore Properties Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
In fairness, Colm Murphy is training Brave Inca to peak only in March, when he defends the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, and conditions yesterday were desperate. Yet he showed an ominous lack of enthusiasm and McCoy gave him a spank with a full circuit to go.
Perhaps his habit of giving himself hard races has finally accumulated some kind of legacy. McCoy himself suggested that "he's getting older and a bit cuter". It was the jockey's own perseverance and initiative that secured this prize. McCoy sensed Asian Maze faltering on the run to three out and drove past Rosaker into the lead, and though Paul Carberry held Rosaker together, his mount was legless by the final hurdle, with the exposed Brogella emphasising the triviality of the form in third.
"He has had a hard race," Murphy said. "The ground was not ideal, but he stuck to his guns well. His comeback run at Punchestown wasn't ideal, as they went a true gallop and he got found out for fitness. He should come again from this. Tony said he wasn't doing a tap. He never seems to travel on his own, and small fields don't suit him."
McCoy saluted Brave Inca as "an amazing horse and still the best" but the jury will be out until the Bewleyshotels.com December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on 29 December. For now Totesport saw fit to cut him to 9-2 for Cheltenham, from 5-1, whereas William Hill go 7-1 from 6-1.
HYPERION'S TIPS FOR WOLVERHAMPTON: 3.45 Dressed To Dance 4.20 Miss Fancy Pants 4.50 Casual Affair 5.20 Desert Opal 5.50 Briannsta 6.20 Italian Romance
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