Suspensory strain ends Marine Nationale’s Arkle hopes

Marine Nationale will miss next week’s My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase due to a suspensory strain.

The seven-year-old won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last year and had been a general 9-4 favourite to supplement his Festival haul in the Arkle.

However, trainer Barry Connell reports his star performer to be in need of a six-week rest, scuppering not only his Cheltenham run, but also any possible engagements at Aintree or Punchestown.

Connell said: “He basically needs six weeks off and he has got a minor suspensory strain.

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“We did our final piece of work with him on Saturday and were thrilled with him – it was as good a piece of work he has done in the last year and a half.

“Everything was all ready for Cheltenham and he was all ready to go, but we obviously don’t ride out on Sunday and came in this morning and the horse was lame.

Marine Nationale won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last year
Marine Nationale won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He has never had a lame step in his life before, so we just put him to one side for the vets to look at him. They went through him in detail and it’s the best possible result we could have hoped for because it’s basically liked a pulled muscle in human terms.

“It is in the suspensory, not a tendon and it’s not a tear, it’s basically a little shadow.

“If we had not caught it and gone on with it, things could have been worse, so the vets say if he gets six weeks’ rest, he will be 100 per cent.”

Marine Nationale has run just twice this term, winning impressively on his fencing bow at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting before suffering a shock defeat at Leopardstown last month.

While his jumps season is over, Connell could yet look for a Flat target in the autumn once the gelding has fully recovered.

He added: “We have missed our spring campaign with him, he’s going to miss Cheltenham and Punchestown, but we’ll get him out early on grass and what I’ve kind of got in the back of my head with this horse is we could give him a go at a Flat campaign.

“That is something we could possibly look to do in the autumn, but the main aim will be to go back to Cheltenham for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next year.

“Given that he has had a truncated season, a Flat campaign is something that could come to fruition in the autumn. I’ve always felt he would be a great horse on the Flat and I don’t know how high he could go, but he could be a horse for maybe the Irish St Leger or something like that.

“One door closes and another opens and the main thing is we have a horse who is going to be 100 per cent in six weeks.

“It’s obviously very disappointing that we can’t go over and win the Arkle this year, but I don’t think there is any National Hunt horse who gets a complete clear run at things and if this is as bad a setback as we get, then we will definitely take it.

“He’s a fresh horse, he’s only had seven runs in his life and he will be as good as new for the Queen Mother next year and in the meantime, we might have a nice go at a few runs on the Flat in the autumn – that’s something we can look at when the dust settles.”

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