Walsh set to ride Brave Inca

RUBY WALSH rode Brave Inca in a crucial piece of work on the Curragh yesterday morning, although no definite decision has yet been reached as to who will partner the horse in next Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

There was much speculation last week Charlie Swan might be lured out of retirement to team up with the nine-year-old, but that possibility seems to have disappeared off the radar.

Reported Brave Inca’s trainer, Colm Murphy: “I won’t know for a day or two who will be aboard at Cheltenham, I am still waiting on the two lads (Tony McCoy and Walsh).

“They have their own commitments, but it is becoming increasingly likely that if Tony doesn’t ride Brave Inca then Ruby will.’

McCoy is owner J P McManus’ retained jockey and his colours will be carried in the Champion Hurdle by current fourth favourite, Straw Bear.

It seems highly unlikely McCoy will discard, or be allowed to discard, Straw Bear in favour of Brave Inca!

Walsh has already turned down live outsider Asian Maze, she will be ridden by Robert Power, and his only other possibility was Paul Nicholls’ Desert Quest.

But he has been ruled out of the race by Nicholls and may challenge instead for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.

McCoy and Brave Inca are regarded as a marriage made in Heaven and the duo’s never-say-die attitude saw them combine to land last year’s Champion Hurdle at the Festival.

McCoy was in the plate in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January when Brave Inca went under by three lengths to Hardy Eustace.

Previously at Leopardstown at Christmas, however, he was unavailable and Walsh substituted to great effect.

Brave Inca jumped and travelled quite beautifully through that contest to beat odds-on Iktitaf a comfortable length and a quarter.

Said Murphy: “He did a very good bit of work on the Curragh for Ruby over a mile. Originally, I had planned to take him to Leopardstown on Sunday.

“But before the meeting was called off, I had decided against that. The ground was so bad there, I was afraid I’d kill him.”

The weather has been atrocious in Ireland, of course, for many weeks, but has not made any difference to Brave Inca’s preparation.

“We are lucky to have an all-weather here at home and have been able

to keep the horse going’, said Murphy.

Reflecting on the AIG, Murphy remarked: “I was disappointed he got beaten, but he ran a cracker. He was beaten by a better horse on the day, but I would expect him to improve a fair bit off it.”

The possibility of a testing surface at Prestbury Park, however, is a worry for the Wexford handler. “We have always felt he was best on nice ground, so that wouldn’t be ideal.”

Commented Ruby Walsh: “Brave Inca worked grand. He seems well and fresh and looks well. But whether he can win another Champion Hurdle, I don’t know!”

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