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Marine Nationale has Barry Connell dreaming of Grade One glory

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Marine Nationale, ridden by Michael O'Sullivan and being led in by Maria Bennett, after winning at Punchestown with trainer Barry Connell (right). Photo: Caroline Norris

Marine Nationale, ridden by Michael O'Sullivan and being led in by Maria Bennett, after winning at Punchestown with trainer Barry Connell (right). Photo: Caroline Norris

Marine Nationale, ridden by Michael O'Sullivan and being led in by Maria Bennett, after winning at Punchestown with trainer Barry Connell (right). Photo: Caroline Norris

BARRY CONNELL is bullish about the potential of Marine Nationale, with the Kildare trainer insisting the five-year-old is the best he has ever had ahead of a tilt at next month’s Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at the Fairyhouse Winter Festival.

Marine Nationale has wowed on his three race starts, having followed two bumper successes with an impressive hurdling debut at Punchestown last month – and the Nurney handler believes he will be up to Grade One company.

Despite previously owning Grade One winners like The Tullow Tank and Our Conor, Connell is adamant he has “never had a horse like him before”, and he can’t wait to test Marine Nationale at elite level.

“I’ve never had a horse like him before in all my career of racing, I just think he’s different. If you go back and look at all of his races, he’s never looked like coming off the bridle, he’s just doing a half speed,” Connell said yesterday.

“He’s only won two bumpers and a maiden hurdle but it’s the manner of the way he goes through his races. He’s very exciting. I think he’s a Grade One horse, that’s why we put him in a Grade One, but he has to step up.

“It’s the impression he’s given us and what he’s shown us to date. I might be wrong, he might hit a ceiling, but at the moment we’re all dreamers in this game and it’s fantastic to have this guy.”

Connell has laid out a “very light programme” for the French Navy gelding with just two races on his agenda between now and the Cheltenham Festival, one at Fairyhouse and the other at Leopardstown – over Christmas or at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Emerging rider Michael O’Sullivan will partner Marine Nationale after forming a potent partnership with Connell and they will also combine on December 4 with dual chase winner Enniskerry in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase.

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