May 27, 2024

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Marine Nationale gets a kiss from jockey Michael O'Sullivan

Royal Bond Novice Hurdle: Marine Nationale denies Irish Point in thrilling finish at Fairyhouse | Racing News

Marine Nationale came with a late rattle to land the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Barry Connell-trained five-year-old headed into the contest unbeaten and took the step up to Grade One-level with aplomb under a cool ride from Michael O’Sullivan, who celebrated his first Grade One victory.

Content to stalk the pace in the early stages, O’Sullivan appeared to have plenty of horse underneath him as the protagonists approached two out. Although temporarily put on the back foot following a mistake at the last, the 11/2 winner responded gamely up the run-in to deny Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point on the line.

Marine National prevailed by a head, with four lengths back to third-placed Ashroe Diamond.

Paddy Power and Betfair make Marine Nationale 7/1 from 16s for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Marine Nationale (right) just gets in front of Irish Point at Fairyhouse
Image:
Marine Nationale (right) just gets in front of Irish Point at Fairyhouse

Connell said: “He travelled away, jumped and settled. He nearly threw it away at the last with a bunny hop, but he dug in. It was the first time he’s ever been off the bridle in his life, and he had to be tough.

“I didn’t know what he’d do off the bridle. Sometimes these bridle horses, they don’t find a whole lot, but you’d love the way he battled and toughed it out. I’m thrilled to have him.

“I thought the ground was gone for him today, to be honest. He had been running away on good ground, and this was the softest ground he had.

“We ride him for speed. He’s actually a flat-bred horse, so we were always going to sit in behind the fancied ones and have a go. There’s no point in setting up a target. He’ll improve again from that, and is a genuine Grade One horse now, so happy days.”

Marine Nationale's owner & trainer Barry Connell celebrates after victory in the Royal Bond
Image:
Marine Nationale’s owner & trainer Barry Connell celebrates after victory in the Royal Bond

Connell has enjoyed plenty of big-race success as an owner over the years with the likes of The Tullow Tank, Foxrock and Our Conor, but he was thrilled to have trained a Grade One scorer.

“It’s brilliant. I’ve ridden Cheltenham winners, I’ve owned Cheltenham winners, but this is a different league altogether.

“I would imagine we will skip Leopardstown at Christmas as he’s had a hard race there, and we’ll probably go Dublin Racing Festival and the Supreme.”