03/14/2006 1:00AM

Brave Inca wins at Cheltenham


Brave Inca stymied Hardy Eustace's bid for a third consecutive Champion Hurdle title with a stirring victory in Cheltenham's opening-day feature on Tuesday.

The 9-5 favorite for the Grade 1, $600,000 race that defines British hurdling supremacy, Brave Inca engaged the 5-1 Hardy Eustace at the halfway mark of the 2 1/16-mile test. The two battled it out, with Brave Inca taking a neck advantage at the second-to-last hurdle. Hardy Eustace began to tire and eventually lost second to Macs Joy, whose late challenge for all the money fell a length short.

Ridden by Tony McCoy, the winner was timed in 3:50.00 on good to soft ground.