Max Flamingo booked his ticket to the Irish Grand National by landing the odds off the mark over the fences in the Horse & Jockey Beginners’ Chase at Thurles.
The seven-year-old brushed aside main market rival Bacardys after leading three outings to get the verdict by three-quarter lengths under Denis O’Regan.
Max Flamingo (4-7 favourite) was back against the opposition on equal terms after running into competitive handicaps at Leopardstown in his two previous starts. It was his easiest task as he had already finished fourth behind Fury Road in the Grade One Neville Hotels Chase, also at Leopardstown, in December.
Coached by Francis Casey, Max Flamingo used his experience in a race reduced to four runners after two late retirements.
The first two were far too good for the other two with 35 lengths back at Fest Deiz in third.
“His whole plan is the Irish National and he’s listed. The weights are out next week but he’s rated 142 and should come in,” Casey said.
“I don’t know if that will affect his handicap score or not, but I don’t think the second horse is a 142 rated horse, so he probably ran to his mark.
“I didn’t really want to win our rookie hunt at this time of year, but we were disappointed with his jump on the last day, so we decided to go for it.
“Denis said he liked the pitch but he didn’t want it any faster.
“He will then compete in the Irish National and we little men have to dream big!”
French Dynamite rose from the shadow of the post to land the Grade Three Pierce Molony Novice Chase.
Ciel De Niege looked certain to take his winning run to four when he jumped the last with a convenient lead, but persistence paid off for Darragh O’Keeffe.
He did not let go of French Dynamite (9-4) and the 7-year-old trained by Mouse Morris remained so good that he snatched the verdict from a nose.
Mark Walsh had decided to go all out on Ciel De Niege and the 4-11 favorite looked to be retaining the fine form of rider and trainer Willie Mullins from the Cheltenham Festival until French Dynamite’s late push proved decisive.
Morris said: “What is rarely is wonderful! It’s nice to see him back and this ground suits him. He jumped well.
“I don’t have any plans and I will speak with the owners and see what they want to do.”
He added “The horses ran well, but hit the crossbar, although they were just moderate. Both at Cheltenham ran well.
“I have a couple of good four-year-olds and there are a few who raced well and placed, so hopefully they can improve.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have $500,000 to spend.”