Arkle favourite Marine Nationale ruled out of Cheltenham - but Barry Connell raises prospect of autumn Flat campaign

Marine Nationale: not at all pressed to make a winning debut over fences
Marine Nationale: ruled out of the Arkle by Barry ConnellCredit: Caroline Norris (

Constitution Hill was not the only 2023 Cheltenham hero to be ruled out of a return bid on Monday as Barry Connell revealed that My Pension Expert Arkle favourite Marine Nationale will miss next week's Cheltenham Festival after suffering a suspensory strain that will require six weeks of recovery.

Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner completed his final piece of work before Cheltenham on Saturday, but was found lame in his box on Monday and was treated in the afternoon by a vet who diagnosed him with the injury. Although Connell described the setback as "minor", it will require a recuperation period of six weeks, which rules him out of both Cheltenham and Punchestown.

The 11th-hour setback comes as a massive blow to Connell, who also had his other Grade 1-winning novice from last season, Good Land, ruled out for the season with a tendon injury in the autumn.

After a sparkling chase debut at Leopardstown in December, Marine Nationale put in a below-par display when fifth in last month's Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival where the ground was thought to be a major contributing factor to the first defeat of his seven-race career.

Connell said: "The horse did his last piece of work on Saturday and we were over the moon with him. He didn't ride out yesterday and we came in this morning and he was lame.

"We got our usual vet to come in and it transpired that he had a suspensory strain. It's not a tear and it's minor. It will repair itself but he needs six weeks so he's going to miss Cheltenham and Punchestown.

"It's one of the most minor injuries you can get. It's just a shadow on the suspensory. It's very frustrating as we had him back 100 per cent and his work was as good as it was last year and going into Christmas. We got this bombshell this morning as the lads said they took him off the walker and he was lame."

Barry Connell: xxxxx
Barry Connell: could run Marine Nationale on the Flat later this yearCredit: Patrick McCann (

The trainer revealed his stable star could be seen on the Flat later this year.

He said: "We might have a little autumn Flat campaign with him. I think he could be a serious Graded horse on the Flat so it's something we can look at. He prospered when we had him on the go during the summer of his novice hurdle campaign. I may be shooting for the moon but he could be an Irish Leger horse, but we'll see how we go.

"Given where we're at, it's something we'll contemplate given he's missing his spring season. We can get him out to grass early and look at an early autumn campaign and have him fit going into next season where we'll hopefully be going for the Champion Chase."

Marine Nationale was odds-on to double his festival haul in the Arkle after his successful chasing debut but was the general 9-4 favourite for Tuesday's Grade 1 before his setback was revealed.

The seven-year-old's absence means that Il Etait Temps and Found A Fifty, who were separated by just a neck in the Irish Arkle, are now vying for favouritism at 7-2.

Il Etait Temps, who emerged on the right side of the verdict that day under Danny Mullins, just shades it with some firms at 3-1, having been a general 5-1 shot on Monday morning.

Arkle Challenge Trophy (2.10 Cheltenham, March 12)

bet365: 7-2 Found A Fifty, 100-30 Il Etait Temps, 4 Gaelic Warrior, 5 Hunters Yarn, 13-2 Facile Vega, 7 JPR One, Quilixios, 12 Blood Destiny, My Mate Mozzie, 20 bar

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Published on 4 March 2024inIreland

Last updated 17:12, 5 March 2024