Trained by: Colm Murphy
Owner: Novices Syndicate
Jockeys: Ruby Walsh, Tony McCoy, Barry Cash, P J Colville
SIRE: Good Thyne
Dam: Wigwam Mam
Did you know : In the middle part of the "noughties", Irish-trained horses dominated the hurdling scene with horses such as Hardy Eustace, Harchibald, Sublimity and Macs Joy all winning their share of Grade 1 contests. However, arguably the most celebrated member of that group was the Colm Murphy-trained Brave Inca. Owned by an enthusiastic syndicate, he came from modest beginnings to win no less than 10 Grade 1 contests and showed himself to be one of the gamest hurdlers in recent decades. Many of his wins are fondly remembered by many, but his two wins at the Cheltenham Festival perhaps shine the brightest. He was considered an Irish banker in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2004 and he raised the roof by battling his way to a neck victory over War Of Attrition. While his colours were lowered in the Champion Hurdle 12 months later, he gained his revenge back at Prestbury Park in 2006, again showing his battling attitude to beat off Macs Joy by a length.
A son of Good Thyne out of a Commanche Run mare, Brave Inca was born on 20th April 1998. He went through the sales ring on a total of four occasions, with the final hammer falling for 14,000gns when he was a three-year-old at the Goffs Land Rover Sale. Now owned by the Novices Syndicate, the gelding was sent to be trained by Colm Murphy in Co. Wexford and while he showed little in a number of starts over hurdles, Murphy always believed the son of Good Thyne had ability and he was soon proven right. On his next two starts, he won two bumpers in great style, confirming that Colm had a much improved performer on his hands. However, as he felt he needed more time, Murphy put him away for the rest of the season and let him develop into his frame.
Climbing The Ladder
Brave Inca began the 2003/4 season rated just 93 over hurdles and he quickly took full advantage of this low mark with comfortable victories in handicaps at Fairyhouse and at Navan before Christmas. At this stage, Colm felt he was ready to step up in grade and he pitched him in against some smart performers in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in early-February. Starting an 11/2 chance, he got the better of the subsequent Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Newmill by ¾-length under Barry Cash and from that moment on, he was primarily campaigned at the highest level.
That victory made Brave Inca a leading fancy for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and having been the subject of a substantial gamble on the day, Brave Inca defeated the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition by a neck in a thrilling finish to give his young trainer a dream result with his first-ever runner at this most famous of racing festivals. Six weeks after that win, he put his reputation on the line by going for the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival and having looked beaten at the final flight, he somehow managed to come up with a renewed effort to deprive Royal Shakespeare by a short-head in another wonderful contest.
Open Hurdling Company Beckons
Having enjoyed such a successful campaign as a novice hurdler, Brave Inca was trained for the 2005 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. However, he had to settle for second place on all his four pre-Cheltenham outings, with Macs Joy getting the better of him on three occasions and Solerina on the other. Despite this, Brave Inca ran a cracker in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, just being edged out by Hardy Eustace and Harchibald in a never-to-be-forgotten race and it was no surprise to see him installed as favourite for the Aintree Hurdle at Liverpool on Grand National Day. However, whilst still travelling strongly for Barry Cash just in behind the leaders he unfortunately made a bad mistake at the third last flight and fell for the first and only time in his career. After this unfortunate incident, Colm's stable star was aimed at the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival and with the incomparable Tony McCoy on-board, he finally gained compensation for a succession of near misses at the highest level when battling back strongly to beat Harchibald by a head.
A Season To Remember
With McCoy now installed as Brave Inca's regular rider, the fortunes of Murphy's stable star were transformed in the 2005/6 season. The pair combined to win three of his four starts in the build up to Cheltenham, with notable highlights coming in the Grade 1 December Hurdle and the Grade 1 AIG Champion Hurdle, both at Leopardstown. Sent off as the strongly backed 7/4 favourite for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, McCoy gave the eight-year-old an inspired ride to get the better of his old rival Macs Joy by a length. McCoy was uncharacteristically jubilant in the aftermath of the race and the crowd's reception of the pair in the winner's enclosure more than matched his reaction. That win was followed by a somewhat lacklustre display in the ACC Bank Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival where he finished a well-beaten second behind Macs Joy.
Another Successful Season
The 2006/7 season presented a new problem for Colm Murphy as Tony McCoy was required more and more to ride for his retained owner, JP McManus. As a result, Barry Geraghty got the call to ride Brave Inca on his seasonal reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle where he finished a lacklustre third to Iktitaf. McCoy was back in the saddle three weeks later in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle and the pair combined to grind out a workmanlike success over Rosaker. McCoy was again unavailable for the December Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas, but Ruby Walsh proved an able deputy as he drove the eight-year-old to a game success over Iktitaf. McCoy again returned to saddle to partner Brave Inca in the AIG Champion Hurdle. However, the pair were comprehensively out-battled by his old rival, Hardy Eustace. Following this defeat, many people began to suspect that Brave Inca's powers may be beginning to wane thus, he was allowed to go off at 11/2 for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle. Despite running his typically game race under Ruby Walsh, he proved to be no match for the young contender, Sublimity. His connections then took the decision to step their charge up to three miles for the first time at the Punchestown Festival, but the nine-year-old ran a lifeless race under Ruby Walsh.
That would prove to be his last start for 19 months, as he suffered quite a serious injury after which many expected him to be retired. However, Murphy exhibited abundant patience and in November 2008, the 10-year-old warrior returned to the track with a typically valiant effort to finish second to Catch Me in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Following that highly-encouraging effort he lined up in the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown and he ran another big race to finish third to Sublimity. However, he proved that he retains most of his top-class ability when making an emotional return to the winner's enclosure after grinding out a ¾-length victory over Muirhead in the Toshiba Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January. For many, that win was the highlight of the season and while Brave Inca would be retired after two below-form efforts on his next two starts, he had sealed his place in the hearts and memories of the Irish racing public. With 10 Grade 1 wins and well over €1m in prize money, he was a remarkable servant to all associated with him and will go down as one of the toughest Irish hurdlers of recent decades.