Marine Nationale lands opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham

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O'Sullivan was still in college when Constitution Hill was winning the Festival opener 12 months ago, while his only previous taste of the Prestbury Park showpiece was an uneventful spin on an outsider in the Kim Muir in 2022. The young Irishman pounced late to secure the Royal Bond earlier in the season and followed a similar script here, riding the unbeaten six-year-old with ultimate confidence.

As 9/4 favourite Facile Vega forced his way to the front in the hands of Paul Townend two out and then lengthened for home, O'Sullivan was motionless aboard Marine Nationale, with a target firmly locked on Facile Vega's tail.

Jumping the last Marine Nationale still had a length to find, but once clearing the final obstacle the result was a formality and O'Sullivan simply had to push the button aboard the 9-2 shot as he sprinted clear for a three-and-a-quarter-length success. It was also a huge moment in the fledgling training career of owner-trainer Connell, whose colours have been seen in the Cheltenham winner's enclosure before but for the first time with the former amateur rider's name on the training licence.

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