Max Flamingo booked his Irish Grand National ticket in landing the odds to get off the mark over fences in the Horse & Jockey Beginners’ Chase at Thurles.
The seven-year-old brushed aside his main market rival Bacardys after leading three out to get the verdict by three-quarters of a length under Denis O’Regan.
Max Flamingo (4-7 favourite) was back meeting the opposition on equal terms after running in competitive handicaps at Leopardstown on his two previous starts. This was his easiest task as he had previously finished fourth to Fury Road in the Grade One Neville Hotels Chase, also at Leopardstown, in December.
Trained by Francis Casey, Max Flamingo put his experience to good use in a race that was reduced to four runners after two late withdrawals.
The first two were far too good for the other two with 35 lengths back to Fest Deiz in third.
“His whole plan is the Irish National and he is entered. The weights are out next week, but he is rated 142 and should get in,” said Casey.
“I don’t know if this will affect his handicap mark 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 beginners’ chase at this time of year, but we were disappointed with his jumping the last day so we said we’d go for this.
“Denis said he loved the ground but wouldn’t want it any quicker.
“He’ll run in the Irish National next and us small men have to dream big!”
French Dynamite got up in 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 handy lead but persistence paid off for Darragh O’Keeffe.
He did not give up on French Dynamite (9-4) and the Mouse Morris-trained seven-year-old stayed on to such good effect that he snatched the verdict by a nose.
Mark Walsh had set out to make all on Ciel De Niege and the 4-11 favourite looked carrying on the fine form of both the rider and trainer Willie Mullins from the Cheltenham Festival until French Dynamite’s late thrust proved decisive.
Morris said: “What’s seldom is wonderful! It is nice to see him back and that ground suits him. He jumped well.
“I have no plans and will speak with the owners and see what they want to do.”
He added “The horses have been running well, but had been hitting the crossbar, although they are just moderate. The two in Cheltenham ran well.
“I have a couple of nice four-year-olds and there are a few which have run well and been placed, so hopefully they can improve.
“Unfortunately I don’t have 500 grand to spend.”