BARRY Connell has posted an upbeat report on Marine Nationale, who is the clear second favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle behind Facile Vega.
The six-year-old gelding was last seen landing the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December by a head from Irish Point.
That form was franked when Irish Point finished second in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, beaten only by the fourth-placed horse in the Royal Bond, Champ Kiely.
Marine Nationale has enjoyed a short break since his Fairyhouse victory, but is back in action now and will be aimed directly at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s good, he’s back in full training. We gave him a break for about a month because he had been on the go for the whole summer,” said Connell.
“He didn’t get a summer break like most of the novices did, so he’s come back fresh and well. The plan is to go to the Supreme, he doesn’t have an entry in any of the other novice races.
“That’s where he’ll head, we’re happy with him and he’s back in full training. We’ll probably get a racecourse gallop into to him somewhere, probably a week before he goes and that would be his preparation sorted.”
Of the subsequent form boost, the trainer added: “The Grade 1 form worked out well in the Lawlor’s Of Naas – the horses who were second and fourth where first and second there.
“It’s always good to see the collateral form working out. We’re very happy with him and we think the better ground, which hopefully we will get a Cheltenham, will be in his favour.
“The ground had gone soft at Fairyhouse and that wouldn’t have suited him but, nevertheless, he still managed to win. I’d say he’ll be even better on spring ground.”
Stable companion Good Land could also head to Cheltenham if he puts up a good showing at Leopardstown next weekend.
The seven-year-old open his account over obstacles by an easy eight lengths in late December, after unseating his rider at the first flight on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse.
Good Land holds an entry for the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle on February 4th, where a good performance could see him go on to tackle the Ballymore at Cheltenham.
Connell said: “He’s come out of his race very well at Leopardstown at Christmas. That was his first real run over hurdles so we’re anticipating something from him. He’s a course winner so we’re hoping he can run a massive race. If he does that then he’ll go to Cheltenham, where he has an entry in the Ballymore.”
Good Land’s Leopardstown win saw him defeat Willie Mullins’ Embassy Gardens, form that was reinforced when the latter horse streaked home to take a Thurles novice hurdle by 35 lengths last weekend.
“Embassy Gardens won very well at Thurles. He made a mistake at Leopardstown and that probably cost him second – instead of finishing fourth he might have been second,” Connell said.
“It is nice to see a boost to the form, we’re happy with our horse and he goes back there having won recently over the course. He’s training well and we’re expecting a good run.”