Marine Nationale gets a kiss from jockey Michael O'Sullivan

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

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 undefeated and passed the first stage with aplomb under the cool guidance of Michael O’Sullivan, who celebrated his first win as a freshman.

Content to keep pace in the early stages, O’Sullivan seemed to have plenty of horsepower under him as the protagonists approached in pairs. Although temporarily set back following an error last, the 11/2 winner responded valiantly in the run-in to prevent Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point on the line.

Marine National won by a head, four lengths behind third-placed Ashroe Diamond.

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

The Marine Nationale (right) arrives just outside Irish Point at Fairyhouse

Connell said: “He walked away, jumped and settled. He almost threw it at the end with a bunny hop, but he dug in. It was the first time he managed to his life, and it had to be tough.

“I didn’t know what he would do without the bridle. Sometimes these bridle horses, they don’t find much, but you’d like the way he fought and endured. I’m thrilled with the have .

“I thought the pitch was gone for him today, to be honest. He ran away on good ground, and it 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 behind the fancy horses and try. There’s no point in setting a target. He’ll get even better from that, and is a real freshman horse now, so happy days.”

Navy owner and trainer Barry Connell celebrates after winning the Royal Bond
Navy owner and trainer Barry Connell celebrates after winning the Royal Bond

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

“It’s great. I’ve ridden Cheltenham winners, I’ve owned Cheltenham winners, but it’s a completely different league.

“I imagine we will skip Leopardstown over Christmas as it has had a tough race there, and we will probably go to the Dublin Racing Festival and the Supreme.”

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