Racing: Inca victorious as Harchibald falters

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Brave Inca denied Harchibald in a thrilling finish to the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle here yesterday. The seven-year-old made most of the running in the hands of Tony McCoy and outbattled the 4-6 favourite on the run-in.

Colm Murphy's charge, a 2-1 chance, was making amends for falling at Aintree on his latest start and was reversing Cheltenham Champion Hurdle form with Harchibald. They had been separated by a neck when second and third to Hardy Eustace.

The race began in earnest four flights from home, where both Macs Joy and Harchibald made their moves behind Brave Inca. The latter was the first to come under pressure as McCoy, who was replacing Barry Cash, resorted to the whip. Harchibald loomed up - much like he did at Cheltenham.

The big three took the final flight together and though Harchibald had appeared to be going best, it was Brave Inca who proved the strongest in a rousing battle to the line. He got the verdict by a head from Paul Carberry's enigmatic mount, with Macs Joy a length away back in third. "He's had a long year but he's as tough as nails and always finds more," said Murphy.

Noel Meade, who trains Harchibald, said: "There is no question that changing the jockey has improved the winner. Harchibald's performance today proved that Paul did nothing wrong in Cheltenham. That's racing. You get beaten sometimes and we'll definitely go down the same route next season."