After a long twelve month wait, the Cheltenham Roar returned in style as thousands of punters packed in to see the opening day of The Festival. This race was won at a canter by Constitution Hill last year, a horse that will take on the Champion Hurdle later today, but this time it was Marine Nationale who produced the goods as favourite Facile Vega stumbled over the last.
It was a seismic victory for Barry Connell who put faith in Michael O'Sullivan and the jockey rode him perfectly. He waited in midfield alongside Facile Vega and came through with the favourite. With one to go it looked as though the favourite had enough in his locker but he stumbled over the last and ran out of steam, while Marine Nationale chased him down.
It was a phenomenal run and win that ended the dominance of Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson in this race. Between the two trainers they’ve had eight of the last 10 winners but now it is Connell who gets the bragging rights as the Irish horse ran riot - occupying the first eight places.
For the favourite, that first defeat in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle has been followed up with another loss, but it didn’t look like there was much he could do to stop the marauding Marine Nationale, even if he cleared the final fence cleanly.
"Unbelievable,” winning jockey Michael O'Sullivan told ITV. “A massive relief. I am so, so lucky to get on this horse. We are having an amazing season. The horse is just incredible. He actually won easy."
Marine Nationale strikes for Barry Connell and @Michael_OSull in the Sky Bet Supreme - and what a performance in the Festival curtain-raiser 🇮🇪
Inthepocket proved popular before the off, perhaps due to the fact that Rachael Blackmore was on board for Henry De Bromhead. But she failed to get into the reckoning as the top two streaked away from the field up the hill. Over eight flights of hurdle, Rare Edition and High Definition set the pace early on with a circuit to go in front of a packed crowd with every vantage point taken.
Chasing Fire kept them company with five to go as the favourites were all bunched in midfield. Strong Leader was poised in fourth with three to go, as they began to cluster and came down the hill and Dark Raven on the outside. However, with two to go, Facile Vega tried to move into contention, he broke clear with Marine Nationale and stumbled over the last to hand victory to Marine Nationale.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle Results
1st. Marine Nationale (9/2)
2nd. Facile Vega (2/1)
3rd. Diverge (22/1)
4th. Inthepocket (11/1)
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