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WATCH: Upping The Ante: Luccia 'swagger' impresses the panel

The latest episode of the increasingly popular Upping The Ante is out and Johnny Dineen has taken a shine to Luccia for Nicky Henderson following her Exeter win at the weekend. 

David Jennings and Johnny answer your questions before looking ahead to the action at Ascot & Haydock this weekend, as well providing their latest charity bets and those all-important Cheltenham Festival ante-post bets, with just four weeks now left until the tapes go up on 14th March.

Watch Episode 15 of Upping The Ante in association with bet365 via the link above or read below for some of the best bets from this week's show. 

Jonbon performance leaves Johnny perplexed

After a fine weekend of racing in Britain, this week's opening question centred on Jonbon, who has been usurped as favourite for the Arkle at Cheltenham despite maintaining his unbeaten record in the Kingmaker at Warwick on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson's star was made to work for the win by his sole rival, rated some 23lb inferior, and is now 7/4 for the Arkle, with Irish Arkle hero El Fabiolo in to 11/10 for Willie Mullins having won well at the Dublin Racing Festival this month. 

Johnny Dineen was asked whether he'd be with or against Jonbon following his trial. 

"I still don't know what he was doing in Warwick," said Johnny. "I'm perplexed as to what kind of performance it was.

"For the first half of the race it was normal service and then suddenly down the back straight I'm thinking 'he's going to pull up!'.

"Ultimately he won well in the end but Calico is a 130-horse, that's what he is all day long.

"He's no longer favourite and in my opinion, that's the right betting now. For me, I think I'd be going with El Fabiolo now – if he puts in a proper round of jumping, he'll mangle Jonbon I'd say." 

Luccia impresses in Exeter romp for Henderson

Johnny's 'Performance of the Week' gave a rock-solid mention to Blazing Khal in second spot after Charles Byrnes' inmate defied more 400 days on the sidelines to win Sunday's Boyne Hurdle in Navan and propelled himself in to 11/4 for the Stayers' Hurdle. 

"To have a chance in the Stayers' Hurdle, and clearly he does, he'd want to have done what he done in that race," says Johnny.

"I could see Teahupoo and Home By The Lee doing that kind of stuff. I think one of the three of them will win the race – all depending on the ground. But, (Charles Byrnes) said himself the horse was fairly straight for the race."

The standout effort over the last seven days, however, went to Luccia after Nicky Henderson's mare won a Listed race at Exeter on Sunday against geldings to maintain her unbeaten record. She's now the 13/8 favourite for Mares' Novices' Hurdle on 16th March and Johnny is a fan. 

"You just don't know how good that animal is," said the Upping The Ante expert. "She won with some swagger and knocked down hurdles and everything.

"All the way through the race she could've jumped better. She's probably going to go for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle and she'll be very, very tough to beat. I wouldn't like to be laying her anyway. 

"She'd be a 5/1 shot if she lined up in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle." 

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Dineen confident of Charity Bet hat-trick

Johnny's charity bet picks have started to click in recent weeks. After a slow spell, he promised he'd make up the money from his own pocket if he couldn't hit his target and it has been back-to-back winners since - as pointed out by under pressure David Jennings! 

Johnny's off to Clonmel this week in search of the hat-trick.

"I'm going with the first favourite in the 1.05 at Clonmel on Thursday - called Feddans," he said.

"I am playing safe. She's penalised but she doesn't have a lot to beat I don't think. Her last run where she was second against Whatcouldhavebeen - that didn't half boost the form in against Ashroe Diamond (since).

"She's dropping into a grade here where, I'd say if she doesn't win this they can leave her down there anyway. There should be no excuses for her."

DJ has lost his advantage after his sparring caught fire in recent weeks and he's headed for the all-weather at Kempton on Wednesday evening bidding to strike back, as he puts up Creme De Cacao in the 6.00 this evening at odds of 2/1 for David Egan and Roger Varian.

"This is one of these horses, you know when you're working or doing something and the telly is on in the background and you aren't really paying attention. Then all of a sudden they turn into the home straight and you say: 'that filly is very eye-catching, what's going on there?'

"She was fifth in the end (on debut at Wolverhampton), but I re-watched the race a few times and I think she has loads of ability. To me, it was a perfect case of first day at school, jockey wasn't too hard on her and I think we'll see a completely different filly now."

DJ hoping to be Walking On Air in Pertemps 

The boys have just a handful of opportunities left to add to their ante-post portfolios for the Cheltenham Festival ensuring every pick is now vital.

David saw plenty to like in the Exeter win of Walking On Air on Sunday and is happy to have him onside at 16/1 for the Pertemps Network Final. 

"I know winners of a qualifiers have a terrible record in the final, but that has to change," he started. "I think Walking On Air is really interesting.

"He's lightly-raced and I just wanted to see did he really see out three-miles and he really did on Sunday, he hit the line hard.

"I thought he won reasonably easy. He'll probably go up to mark of 140 which is perfect for this race. He's taken time to fulfil potential, but I think they have always held him in high regard."

Johnny, meanwhile, is putting forward 14/1 Billaway to stage a repeat success in the Foxhunters for Willie Mullins. 

It didn't look likely for a long way last March, but Patrick Mullins got there late on and Johnny is on his side again.

"I can't believe he's such a big price. If (favourite) Vaucelet doesn't get good ground he's going to be vulnerable. If he does, he will probably beat Billaway. 

"I think they are gearing him up for one last hurrah. I know you couldn't fancy him on what he has done this year but I think if he beats Vaucelet he'll probably win the race. I think there's too much difference in the price between the two of them." 

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