Michael O’Sullivan excited by Marine National and Good Land

Michael O’Sullivan was thrilled to be following in his family’s footsteps as he rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner aboard the Marine Nationale in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last Tuesday.

O’Sullivan comes from a well-known racing family.

His uncle Eugene is a successful trainer having given both his father William and cousin Maxine winners at the Cheltenham Festival at Foxhunter Chase and Michael was delighted to add his name to the family roll of honours.

“It was brilliant,” he said. “I guess I grew up there in 1991 with the stories of Dad’s winner and Eugene trained her and my grandfather owned and bred her and obviously I was there when Maxine won a few years ago so it was great to say that I did it was there and I did it.”

First asked to drive for Marine Nationales owner/trainer Barry Connell in a point-to-point, O’Sullivan maintained the partnership at a Hunter Chase in Downpatrick, where he first met Connell. Skimming through the entries while helping his father move the cows to their dairy farm, he noticed that Marine Nationale wasn’t pumped about its rules debut and that the shipyard didn’t have an amateur, so he texted Connell with the Request a ride and the rest is history.

Marine Nationale duly won his bumper at Punchestown and immediately made an impression on his young jockey.

“He was very, very impressive,” he told Nick Luck lucky on sunday.

“It went very smoothly and it was just one of those things that went so easy you just wonder how good it was. It was just the foot turn he showed when Demandrivingdouvan came up on his outside and he just got away quicker and I thought I was sitting on something else here.

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“I suppose I’d never sat in a race on real first class horses so I couldn’t come in and say that, but I think he surprised us all a bit. Even Barry had hoped he would be in the top three or four that day. I walked in and said, ‘You have a very nice horse on your hands and thank you for letting me ride it.’”

The partnership stayed intact, winning another bumper at Killarney before adding a first hurdle and Grade One Royal Bond to their tally and they are still undefeated after the curtain call on last week, a race O’Sullivan took away Luck said it went very smoothly.

“I was very happy when I got down the hill, I thought I had him (Facile Vega) covered. I think I was a little worried when he had that gap between Aidan (Coleman) and Daryl (Jacob) and he just picked up speed when he turned around and he stretched me a little but I was confident enough to go to my horse I just had to give it a chance and catch my breath and until the last time I was very, very glad I had covered him and it was just a matter of getting from A to B.

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“The horse was mighty impressive, he won really easily, even on this ground; on better ground he would be better again.

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“He didn’t really get much of it but after the race he didn’t have a hard race, I was very, very lucky to be on his back.”

O’Sullivan believes there is much more to Marine Nationale.

“He’s pure pace but he’s staying and he’s cantered right through the line on both days,” he continued.

“I wouldn’t be afraid at all to travel with him, but the gaits and the way he moves so easily are mighty impressive and he’s a brilliant jumper. He’s just really, really good at every quality he’s got, he’s so smart you could almost talk to him, he’s that smart. It’s just a pleasure to be with him.”

Luck then asked, “Are there any flaws in him?” To which came the reply, “No, he’s amazing. I haven’t found a bug yet anyway.”

Connell had been just as confident of a big run good country in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle but was only able to finish fourth behind impressive winner Impaire Et Passe.

However, O’Sullivan doesn’t feel that Good Land has lost its streak: “I was happy with my position throughout the race, but I was never really happy with the horse,” he explained.

“He felt a bit flat, he didn’t jump or travel as well as he can and he had a good shot after that.

“I think he was a little snotty in his nose yesterday morning so maybe he just got some because he was in great shape before that. He’s still had a very, very solid race and it’s had a very good race so he’s running as well as he has and isn’t 100% I think he’s a real horse to go for can look forward to obstacles next year.

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Luck was keen to end the interview on a positive note and it seems Connell’s confidence is rubbing off on his retained jockey as, when asked if Marine Nationale Impaire Et Passe would beat over two miles, he replied: ‘Oh yes, definitely .

“It would be okay to have a good race. It would be interesting, maybe sometime in the future, in Punchestown…we’ll see.”

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