"I've been dreaming of this day since I was a kid" - young Cork jockey lights up Cheltenham day one 6 months ago

"I've been dreaming of this day since I was a kid" - young Cork jockey lights up Cheltenham day one

Marine Nationale put in an outstanding display to win the Supreme Novice's hurdle for his owner and trainer Barry Connell.

The Kildare man had been very bullish coming into the race, claiming straight-up a couple of weeks ago that, bar none, 'we have the best horse in the race.' A trainer knows his horse better than anyone and, as it turned out, Connell was spot on.


Under a calm ride from Michael O'Sullivan, the six-year-old stalked pre-race-favourite Facile Vega around the bend before pouncing after the final flight. Facile Vega had no answer for Marine Nationale's speed and staying power then as, up the run-in, he stormed clear up the Cheltenham hill.

It was a sensational display and afterwards, it was hardly any surprise that Barry Connell was beaming with pride.

"This is massive. We've a small little stable," said the Kildare-based-handler.


"I've told all of Ireland for the last seven months that this is the best horse I've ever had. This horse could win a good race on the flat. He'll be back for the Arkle next year.

"I told everyone on the boat coming over he'd win. I'd have had to wear a disguise going home on the boat if we got beat. I don't know why I do it but I genuinely thought I had the best horses in both of the races."

"We're coming back for a double with Good Land tomorrow."


Young Cork jockey Michael O'Sullivan was faultless in the saddle and Connell paid tribute to the 22-year-old from Dromahane .

"He rang me for the ride on this horse in the bumper in May. When he won on him in Punchestown, I was blown away by horse and rider. He's so cool. He's way ahead of his age in terms of maturity. I could see him being a trainer.

"We put our faith in him. And now we wouldn't swap him for any jockey in the weigh-room."

O'Sullivan was cool as a breeze when push came to shove and that's exactly how he was in the parade ring afterwards too.


"I've been dreaming of this day since I was a kid," he said on Racing TV.

"It's surreal. This year has been so good. I'm enjoying every minute of it. To win on the first one, it takes the pressure off."