Racing: Macs Joy leads the way for Ireland's Champion challenge

It is a race with a name full of hubris, but, for once, the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle lived up to its billing at Leopardstown yesterday. Three horses - Macs Joy, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace - flashed across the line, almost in unison, and it would take a courageous figure to venture that one of the trio would not win a Champion Hurdle in just over seven weeks' time. And if not them, another Irish horse in Harchibald must be the selection. The pads of the clover are tightening.

It is a race with a name full of hubris, but, for once, the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle lived up to its billing at Leopardstown yesterday. Three horses - Macs Joy, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace - flashed across the line, almost in unison, and it would take a courageous figure to venture that one of the trio would not win a Champion Hurdle in just over seven weeks' time. And if not them, another Irish horse in Harchibald must be the selection. The pads of the clover are tightening.

Macs Joy followed up his win in the Festival Hurdle at the Dublin track last month with a victory that had the packed stands in thrall as half the field flashed past the post virtually locked together. Barry Cash punched the air aboard Brave Inca, indicating he thought they had got up, but a photo-finish determined that it was again Macs Joy's day, much to the delight of the public, who had sent him off the 11-8 favourite. He landed the €90,250 (£63,000) first prize by just a short-head from Colm Murphy's charge, a 7-2 chance, while last year's Champion Hurdle winner, Hardy Eustace, at 7-1, was just a head away.

Macs Joy jumped to the front under a confident Barry Geraghty two flights out and the rider looked a picture of confidence turning for home. But he had challengers coming at him on all sides in the closing stages, with Hardy Eustace charging home down the centre of the track and Brave Inca staying on all the time down the inside rail,. All that despite having been off the bridle down the back straight and having made a terrible mess of the third flight. The three will renew rivalry in hurdling's Blue Riband at Cheltenham in March.

"He battled back after he was headed but was in front too long today. He is better when he comes late," Jessica Harrington, the winning trainer who was celebrating a Grade One double after the earlier success of Ulaan Baatar in the Arkle Trophy, said. "He handles any ground, though, from this heavy to good to firm. We'll keep him ticking over, give him an easy week and then head to Cheltenham hoping for the best.

"I don't know if he will be good enough to win there, but he'll take his chance and I just hope the same three can come up the hill at Cheltenham."

Brave Inca has now finished runner-up to Macs Joy three times this season, but trainer Colm Murphy was far from downbeat after his seven-year-old, winner of last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, lived up to his name as he battled all the way to the finish. "Turning in he was going to be a bad fourth, but he is as tough as nails and stayed on well," the County Wexford-based trainer said. "He's had a hard race today, but there are eight weeks until Cheltenham.

Dessie Hughes was thrilled with the performance of his Hardy Eustace. "He ran a hell of a race and, hopefully, he will run a hell of a race in the Champion Hurdle," he said. "I walked the track and instructed Conor [O'Dwyer] to come wide. The worst of the ground was after the last and he just could not quicken on it.

"It was a good run and I now know the horse is right. He may go to Gowran Park [for the Red Mills Hurdle] next month before Cheltenham."

LEOPARDSTOWN RESULTS

1.40 1. ULAAN BAATAR (T J Murphy) 10-1; 2. Foreman 13-8 fav; 3. Ned Kelly 7-1. 8 ran. 9, 2. (Mrs J Harrington). Tote: £11.90; £2.20, £1.60, £1.90. Exacta: £33.80. CSF: £28.86. NR: Dangerousdanmagru.

2.45 1. MACS JOY (B J Geraghty) 11-8 fav; 2. Brave Inca 7-2; 3. Hardy Eustace 7-1. 6 ran. Sht-hd, hd. (Mrs J Harrington). Tote: £2.70; £1.70, £2.30. Exacta: £5.40. CSF: £6.47.

3.20 1. WASHINGTON LAD (A P McCoy) 10-1; 2. Asian Maze 11-4 fav; 3. Arteea 7-1. 7 ran. 1 1/ 2, 2. (P Fahy). Tote: £10.40; £2.70, £2.50. Exacta: £25.10. CSF: £35.42. NRs: Domnul Admiral, Guantama Bay.

CHAMPION HURDLE (Cheltenham, 15 March) Coral: 3-1 Harchibald, 5-1 Back In Front, 6-1 (from 8-1) Hardy Eustace, 8-1 (from 10-1) Brave Inca, Macs Joy, 10-1 Rooster Booster, 12-1 Accordion Etoile, 16-1 Inglis Drever, 20-1 others; William Hill: 3-1 Harchibald, 11-2 Back in Front, 6-1 (from 8-1) Hardy Eustace, 7-1 (from 10-1) Brave Inca, 8-1 Accordian Etoile, Macs Joy, 12-1 Rooster Booster, 16-1 others; Ladbrokes: 3-1 Harchibald, 5-1 Back In Front, 7-1 (from 8-1) Hardy Eustace, 8-1 (from 10-1) Brave Inca, 8-1 (from 7-1) Macs Joy, 10-1 (from 6-1) Accordion Etoile, 12-1 Rooster Booster, 16-1 others; Tote: 3-1 Harchibald, 5-1 Back In Front, 7-1 Macs Joy, 7-1 (from 8-1) Hardy Eustace, 8-1 (from 10-1) Brave Inca, 12-1 others.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: The Hairy Lemon

(Fontwell 4.00)

NB: Haafel

(Fontwell 3.30)

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam