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WATCH: Upping The Ante: Johnny hopes to have Ballymore winner Inthepocket

Episode 17 of Upping The Ante is here and it is now just two weeks before the Cheltenham Festival gets underway, ensuring David Jennings and Johnny Dineen are reaching fever pitch.

On this week's episode, David and Johnny answer your questions before looking ahead to the action at Kelso and Newbury this week.

They then share their weekly charity bets, before finishing off with their all-important ante-post Cheltenham Festival selections.

Watch the show via the link above or read below for some of the best bits from Episode 17 of Upping The Ante in association with bet365.

Johnny taking on Honeysuckle in Mares' Hurdle 

On this week's 'Questions from the Crowd' the task set for Johnny was to give the top three horses he'd be taking on at the Cheltenham Festival and the ace tipster had no trouble in outlining which trio he sees getting beaten.

"Number three is Fun Fun Fun in the bumper, I think that has no chance," he began. "I'm hoping that Patrick Mullins might even ride that, there's talk he might because he bred it, and that might even see it going off favourite.

"I know she won at the (Dublin Racing Festival), but she only beat Lily Du Berlais and (that mare) wouldn't finish within three furlongs of winning the Cheltenham bumper!" 

Both Johnny and David said they were now very much against 7/2 Facile Vega in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle following his abject defeat last time, though the former was keen to stress it might not be a 'vintage renewal', while suggesting that 'no English horse would win the race'.

Johnny's top horse to oppose this year was 5/2 Honeysuckle in the Mares' Hurdle 'without a shadow of a doubt', with Marie's Rock at 4/1 the one he believes is going to take her measure. 

"I have to have Marie's Rock running [against her] to be confident. Epatante, Echoes In Rain, Love Envoi, Brandy Love - they all have chances - but I want Marie's Rock in that race.

"She'd have been better than them maybe a year ago or 18 months ago, but I think Honeysuckle will get beat. I think Marie's Rock will beat her."

Performances that point to the future 

Johnny's Performance of the Week already has him dreaming of Cheltenham 2024, with three standout efforts over the past seven days that have him looking to the future.

Amongst them was Naas bumper winner Stellar Story in the Gigginstown House Stud colours, who got up late on to deny a Willie Mullins inmate in Ile Atlantique, having looked in trouble some way out.

"I'd back him for next year's Albert Bartlett," says Johnny. "He cost €310,000 after winning a point-to-point.

"I just loved his attitude, he's a horse that's going to way up in trip and I just loved the way he stuck at it, and I'd say that was no mug he beat."

The overall Performance of the Week went to Corbetts Cross after he edged out Found A Fifty in the Grade 2 Johnstown Novice Hurdle at Naas, also on Sunday, the pair having pulled well clear.

"The runner-up's jumping was fantastic, but (he) kept jumping with him. When a horse is jumping in front of you like that, it's so easy for the one behind to make mistakes.

"Every hurdle that he met, he was nearly as good as the one in front. The last horse I remember like that, that would go two miles on good (ground) and three miles on heavy was Faugheen."

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Morebattle favourite up against it

This coming weekend is a big one for Kelso, as the Scottish Borders track hosts its major jumps meeting, with the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle (1.50) the feature on Saturday.

Trainer Emmet Mullins landed this race with The Shunter previously before going on to win at the Cheltenham Festival and his Mctigue is favourite at 4/1

A smart Flat performer for Jim Bolger, he won a Grade 2 over hurdles on soft ground at Auteuil in October, but has been well beaten in both starts since, latterly when tailed off at Leopardstown over Christmas. 

He has a mark of 142 to try and defy at Kelso, where he takes on older performers. 

"I'm not so sure, he's a four-year-old taking on older horse, I thought he'd be up against it in a race like this," said Johnny.

Johnny prefers southern raiders 16/1 Parisencore and 10/1 Deere Mark as his two against the field for the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

Johnny going for Charity Bet five-timer

Johnny's recent charity bets have been doing the business, with David suggesting he's now the 'talk of the town' after firing in four winners in a row.

DJ is lagging behind his Upping The Ante co-host and is siding with 8/1 War Lord in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury (2.45) on Saturday afternoon in his quest to make up ground.

"There was more sign of life last time at Wetherby, I thought he jumped better. He saw out his race better. Fourth in last year's Arkle, second in a Grade 1 at Aintree - he's my pick this week," David said.

Johnny, meanwhile, suggest he's 'not as confident' as in recent weeks, but feels he has found a decent chance as he once more stays close to home with Soldaro in the 3.15 at Clonmel on Thursday.

"It's a mare belonging to Gavin Cromwell," he said. "It was fourth last time in Fairyhouse and this is a poor race. She has one horse to worry about (Tipp For Mac) and I can't see any other danger."

Ballymore winner could be Inthepocket 

With Cheltenham less than two weeks away, the lads are almost at their final selections for the ante-post portfolios.

Johnny this week adds 16/1 Inthepocket for Henry De Bromhead in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

"I think it has a good chance, it's a winnable enough race," he began. "I'm gone off Hermes Allen, I'm not a fan of the form since. I've a feeling there's no good English novice. 

"I think the form in Naas, beating Three Card Brag and Absolute Notions is top novice form. They are good horses and the step up in trip from two miles the last day will suit him." 

DJ, meanwhile, admits that 'Ireland never win the Ultima' on day one of The Festival and he put up Happygolucky at 20/1 to go one better than when second in the race two years ago.

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