Brave Inca rediscovers old fire

All manner of things might have happened during Saturday's meeting here without anyone being any the wiser, so dense was the fog, but there was no place to hide yesterday. The sunlight was as crisp as the frost that still gnawed the feet in the afternoon, though it must be said that you did not necessarily learn a great deal more than you might have done the previous day.

For the long shadows cast by the low sun may also spread a chill across the pages of the formbook. It was not so much a lack of quality – despite the latest disappearance of Aran Concerto – as the grim conditions, and the consequent reticence in the jockeys.

This proved particularly true of those riders entrusted with the rising stars, the big novice races over both hurdles and fences being run at a wary pace. Instead it fell to the old diehards, veterans of many unsparing assignments over the years, to warm the cockles in the Bar One Hatton's Grace Hurdle.

Seldom, it must be said, can so few have cheered for a heavily backed favourite. Between the last two hurdles, Catch Me had his work cut out to get past two cherished perennials in Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace, and the course commentator exclaimed in astonishment: "How often have we called these over the years!"

Hardy Eustace had already taught a couple of upstarts a lesson when beating Sizing Europe and Jered at Punchestown earlier in the month. This time, however, the holding ground blunted even his enthusiasm, and instead it fell upon the other champion hurdler in the field to threaten an even more outrageous comeback.

Brave Inca had missed the whole of last season but seldom in his long career has he travelled as smoothly as he did for Davy Russell here. In his younger days he was hardly ever on the bridle; this time, he cruised into contention before rallying with all the old determination. Sadly for the romantics, his stride shortened close home and Catch Me saw him off by a length and a half.

The extra half-mile might well have exhausted Brave Inca's stamina, and Colm Murphy indicated that he will be dropping back to two miles next time. "He's back!" Murphy said. "He'll probably go for the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown now."

Edward O'Grady, trainer of Catch Me, was unabashed as villain of the piece. "I've been behind those two horses a number of times," he said wryly. "So I'm quite pleased to have my day. This horse was a very good novice, probably unlucky not to win three Grade Ones, and last year he just wasn't right."

Catch Me had won on his return at Navan, however, O'Grady's vets having discovered and treated an allergy. "Science has prevailed," O'Grady said. "I'm nearly a believer now." His next test of faith may come with a step up to three miles, though for now bookmakers were offering around 16-1 for both the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

O'Grady had saddled the horse in low spirits, having just seen Tranquil Sea run a lifeless race in the Drinmore Novices' Chase. Despite the steady gallop, this proved a gruelling affair and Forpadydeplasterer was a spent force on the flat after jumping boldly in the lead. Trafford Lad did not seem to have much in reserve, either, but bravely staggered five lengths clear.

Dusty Sheehy suggested that this horse would never do anything too flashy. "He's a real laid-back horse. If you worked him with a good one, he'd beat him a neck; and if you worked him with a moderate one, he'd beat him by a neck as well."

At least the young hurdlers were spared undue attrition, the Royal Bond Hurdle being reduced to a sprint from the last. Hurricane Fly came out best for Paul Townend, the young claimer who has been making hay for Willie Mullins in the absence of Ruby Walsh, but his employer was at least as pleased with Cousin Vinny, the top-class bumper horse who shaped nicely in third.

"Paul gave his horse a super ride in what was a difficult race, tactically," Mullins said. "But probably the most I'll take from the race is the way Cousin Vinny jumped and ran. I would expect a lot of improvement from him."

By the time he returns to Cheltenham, of course, Cousin Vinny should be back in his element, in a strongly run race on spring ground. Both horses will now be considered for Leopardstown after Christmas. "I'll look at the English programme as well," Mullins said, before giving a knowing grin. "But I don't really like travelling – until March."

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice