Marine Nationale came with a late rattle to take the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The Barry Connell-trained five-year-old entered the race unbeaten and stepped up to Grade 1 with aplomb under a fine ride from Michael O’Sullivan, who celebrated his first Grade One victory.
Satisfied with the early going, O’Sullivan appeared to have more horses under him as the opposition closed in on two. Despite falling behind for a while after making a last-ditch mistake, the 11/2 winner responded gamely to deny Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point at the line.
Marine National won the title, four lengths back from Ashroe Diamond in third.
Paddy Power and Betfair make Marine Nationale 7/1 from 16s in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Connell said: “He took off and jumped and settled down. He almost lost it at the end with a small animal, but he dug deep. hard.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do in the bullpen. Sometimes these horses, they don’t get a lot, but you have to love how he fought and toughed it out. I’m happy to have him. .
“I thought he’d run out of ground today, to be honest. He was running in a good spot, and this is the softest spot he’s had.
“We ride him fast. He’s really a broken horse, so we always get behind the favorites and go. There’s no need to set a target. He’ll do well from there, and he’s a real Grade One horse now, very exciting days.”
Connell has enjoyed great competition as an owner over the years with The Tullow Tank, Foxrock and Conor Yathu, but was delighted to have trained the Grade One winner.
“It’s brilliant. I’ve ridden Cheltenham winners, I’ve had Cheltenham winners, but this is a different league altogether.
“I think we’ll skip Leopardstown over Christmas because they had a tough race there, and maybe we’ll go to the Dublin Racing Festival with Supreme.”