Marine Nationale wins pulsating Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after Facile Vega mistake at last in Cheltenham Festival opener
MARINE NATIONALE took a pulsating Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for former stockbroker trainer Barry Connell.
The 9-2 chance ridden by Michael O’Sullivan was travelling really well behind leader and 9-4 favourite Facile Vega.
ReutersO’Sullivan celebrates after winning the Supreme on Marine Nationale[/caption]
Willie Mullins’ charge made a small mistake at the last and that allowed Marine Nationale to power home up the hill.
Diverge finished third at 25-1.
But Marine Nationale’s win was sweet justice for Connell.
He has been telling people for months his horse would win this race.
Doubts surfaced over the testing ground for the Royal Bond winner, who hasn’t been since on a racecourse since early December.
But there were no cobwebs or rust as he simply gobbled up the ground to claim the £75,965 first-place prize.
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Attention now turns to Connell’s other big hope Good Land in tomorrow’s Ballymore.
Connell is adamant that horse wins as well and victory would bring up a whopping double for the Irish trainer.
Connell said: “I knew coming in we had the best horse and the best rider. We’re coming back for a double tomorrow.”
Incredibly, Ireland had the first EIGHT horses home in the premiere race for novice hurdlers.
The best British-placed runner was 25-1 Strong Leader for trainer Olly Murphy and Sean Bowen.
He finished ninth, with Paul Nicholls’ fancied Tahmuras a place further back.
Delighted O’Sullivan, who looks set to become the breakthrough star of the week, said: “That’s unbelievable and a massive relief, for Barry for having the faith in me and for the team at home – they work so hard.
“The horse is just incredible. Turning in there I wasn’t sure what I was holding on to but my god he actually won easy.
“Barry stuck his chest out and he was right.”
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