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Dream Tuesday for O Sullivan at Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Festival could not have begun in any better way for Michael O’Sullivan as he produced a polished ride to claim the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Marine Nationale before adding the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle to his day’s work.
The former under-21 champion claimed the opening Grade 1 of the festival when teaming-up with his boss Barry Connell to land the Supreme in fine style.
“I’ve been dreaming of this day since I was a kid,” the 23-year-old UCD student said.
“I suppose it is surreal and it won’t sink in. This year has been so good. I suppose it is hard to appreciate it and it is hard to be topped but I’m enjoying every minute of it. I was coming here with a good book of rides and to win the first one it takes the pressure off. The horse is incredible and it is easy riding a horse like that with plenty of confidence. We didn’t go overly quick. I was in a fine position and we were comfortable. I’m very lucky to be on his back.
“I’ve been riding in races since I was very young so I’ve plenty of experience and I’m confident enough in my own ability without being over-confident and I’m riding good horses for good people and that makes it a lot easier. You could nearly say the Supreme is the biggest race of the week as it is the first - I’m very lucky and it is a great thrill.”
Winning trainer Barry Connell lavished praise on the Cork native in the winner’s enclosure as he said: “Michael O’Sullivan was champion novice point to point rider. He hasn’t come from the flapping pony racing field, he’s come from proper horsemen. 
“And he’s a thinker, a very smart guy. He’s got his university degree already. He’s 23, he’s not a kid, and I have no problem him not being able to claim - he doesn’t need his claim. I never thought in any circumstances about putting a more experienced jockey on. If you gave me any jockey, I wouldn’t swap him.”
The day got even better when O’Sullivan teamed-up with Gordon Elliott’s Jazzy Matty to get up in the dying strides of the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, the second of his two victories on the day to be witnessed by his father William, himself a Cheltenham Festival winning jockey.
“It’s unreal. I couldn’t be prouder. He’s worked very hard at his riding all his life and I couldn’t be happier for him. He really deserves it.
“He has [maturity beyond his years] but he was always very level-headed and he always thought a lot about what he was doing. He was very committed to his studies and when he started riding, he was very committed to getting things right before he even sat on the horses, and studying the form.”

O’Sullivan, who rode the 1991 Foxhunter winner Lovely Citizen, said: “That was a long time ago! That was a different era. It is totally different now, way more professional.”
On how he’s been able to help his son, he said: “There's questions on the way to ride some horses and you try to help him the best you can, but he does a lot of the studying himself. He gets a lot of help from a lot of people, the other jockeys are all full of advice to him and that really helps him. 
You’re only as good as your last ride, and hopefully it will keep going for him.
“I was very nervous [watching the Supreme], just hoping things would go right for him. It was a fierce achievement to get a ride like that in the Supreme from Barry Connell and he was just hoping that Barry Connell’s trust in him paid off and thank God it did.
“That [the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle] was a beautiful ride, thanks very much to Gordon Elliott.”
Michael did hesitate in voicing his own praise for his father as he said: “Dad is amazing. I grew up listening to stories of him riding and how good he was - he rode a Festival winner and was a very accomplished amateur, and in fairness to Dad he never pushed me too much, but when he saw I had interest, he gave me every opportunity. 
“He drove me all over the country and spent a lot of money sending me eventing and showjumping, and it’s great that it’s paying off. Dad kills himself with hard work at home on the farm, and it’s great that he’s here today.”


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