Marine Nationale Could Be Kept Fresh For Cheltenham Festival

James Mackie

Marine Nationale

Trainer/owner Barry Connell looks to have a superstar on his hands with Marine Nationale after the gelding landed the first Grade One of his career at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

The five year old has been seen four times in his career, making his debut at Punchestown in May this year when winning a 2m bumper in good fashion ahead of Demandrivingdouvan and Halibut who both went on to frank the form.

Given another run in a bumper at Killarney in August he was another nice winner this time by a further 11 lengths and now it was time to go over hurdles.

Given his hurdles debut back at Punchestown he beat a decent field of 12 with ease and was then saved for his run on Sunday at Fairyhouse in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

With four horses swinging the corner for home on the bridle, jumping the last it was Marine Nationale and Irish Point left battling it out and just in front of the posts, the Barry Connell gelding got up to land his first Grade One Success.

With all systems go to the Cheltenham festival in March it is unsure whether he will be seen again before them with the most likely destination for the horse to be the Supreme Novices' Hurdle where he is now a general 8/1 chance.

(Credit ATR) He said: “He’s come out of the race 100 per cent thankfully. I’m very happy with him.

“The soft ground wasn’t ideal for him on Sunday and I think if he’d put in a proper jump at the last he would have won snugly. At the same time it was good to see him make a mistake and still win – it was a good performance.

“There’s a possibility that we could go straight to Cheltenham, I’d say. He runs well fresh and has been on the go all summer, so I’d say we’re probably leaning more towards going straight to Cheltenham.

“He’s got his Grade One and has plenty of experience now, so that is the most likely plan at present anyway.”

Connell has suggested that Marine Nationale could be sent to the flat during his career with a tilt at one of the staying races at Royal Ascot not ruled out by the handler.

He added: “I just mentioned it (Royal Ascot) because of the speed he has – I think he could make a nice Flat horse in due course.

“But it’s not in the plans in the near future. The main job is heading for the Supreme now.”