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WATCH: Upping The Ante: Plotting a path for Paul Townend

It's Episode 12 of Upping The Ante and it's a big one as David Jennings and Johnny Dineen get all set for Cheltenham's Trials Day card on Saturday afternoon - the final day of racing at the track before March.

DJ and Johnny answer your questions before looking ahead to the racing at Gowran Park on Thursday, including the Thyestes Chase, along with the nine-race card at Cheltenham on Saturday.

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

Watch the whole show on the link above, or read below for some of the best bits from the latest edition of Upping The Ante in association with bet365.

Townend's Festival dilemmas 'solved'

This week's 'Questions From The Crowd' began with what David Jennings described as the 'question of the series so far' as Johnny Dineen was asked to figure out who Paul Townend would ride in the three Grade 1 novice hurdles at The Festival, as well as the three Grade 1 novice chases.

Ever the man for the challenge, Johnny set about plotting a path for Ireland's champion jockey.

"Well the first one is easy anyhow," he began. "He's going to ride Facile Vega in the Supreme - once you're guaranteeing these horses will get there. That's not even up for argument. 

"Listening to the vibes and his post-race interview, you'd say he's going to ride Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore. He's not going to run between now and Cheltenham, so he's not going to blot his copybook.

"He'll ride Embassy Garden in the Albert Bartlett after (his win) at Thurles on Sunday I'd say." 

Facile Vega, one of Johnny's strongest Festival fancies, is 8/11 favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, with Impaire Et Passe priced at 4/1 in the Ballymore and Embassy Gardens trading at 7/1 in the Albert Bartlett.

The Grade 1 novice chases are where things get more interesting, with some real dilemmas potentially ahead for Willie Mullins' stable jockey.

"It all depends on what happens with Dysart Dynamo and El Fabiolo in the Dublin Racing Festival - I presume he'll ride Dysart Dynamo in the Irish Arkle and if he's right there, he'll ride him again in the Arkle," says Johnny. 

Dysart Dynamo is 4/1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham on 14th March, with stablemate El Fabiolo at 11/2, but after that Johnny admits the waters get muddy.

"They (Mullins and Townend) look like they are going to have two good horses for each of these novice chases.

"Appreciate It and Sir Gerhard definitely won't run in the same race, so whatever Sir Gerhard does at Gowran Park (this week) will be crucial."

It's For Me deserves Champion Bumper favouritism

With no UK jumps racing over the weekend, Johnny Dineen's 'Performance of the Week' was understandably confined to Ireland.

He liked the effort from Embassy Gardens for Mullins and Townend at Thurles on Sunday, as well as Saturday's Navan scorer Mahler Mission - a horse Johnny has a soft spot for but didn't back here. He does, however, see John McConnell's runner as a contender at 14/1 for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham on 14th March. 

The star performer was It's For Me, who stormed to victory on debut for Mullins in the bumper at Navan on Saturday and is now 4/1 clear favourite for Cheltenham's Champion Bumper.

"We needed a horse to take the Champion Bumper market by the scruff of the neck and I thought that was it," says Johnny. 

"It won with some amount in hand, and it was free and keen in the race, not unmanageably so, but he did a lot of running and sauntered up to the line.

"He looked like a horse that you'd follow over a cliff for me, even at 4/1 for the Champion Bumper - what's going to beat him?

"I don't care what comes (out of the Dublin Racing Festival), I'd say there's a horse Patrick Mullins will definitely ride at Cheltenham."

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Charity bets - Johnny sides with Irish raider at Doncaster 

After a quick discussion on the merits of renaming their charity bets showdown - currently 'DJ vs. Johnny', to the catchier 'DJ vs. JD' now that regular Upping The Ante viewers know all about Johnny Dineen, the lads moved on to this week's selections.

Johnny is plumping with an Irish raider at Doncaster on Saturday afternoon this week, the John McConnell-trained Grand Soir in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle (2.40) on Town Moor.

"I liked how it won in Thurles. He was the first horse beat, he was beat after two hurdles, but the longer the race went on the more he ground it out. The long home straight at Doncaster will suit him. Nothing will outstay him," he says.

DJ, meanwhile, plumps for Gabbys Cross at 12/1 in the Thyestes Chase (2.50) at Gowran Park on Thursday, representing Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

Thyme right for DJ 

In this week's ante-post picks for The Festival in March, David Jennings admitted he was 'stealing' one of Johnny Dineen's picks as he put forward 7/1 Thyme Hill in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase - suggesting that Philip Hobbs' horse was at least three points too big currently. 

"I think he should be 4/1 favourite and at the current price, he's value," he said. "You look around the market and think: 'January's nearly over - what's going to come out (of the woodwork) here?'

"In my opinion he has produced the best staying novice chase performance of the season at Kempton in the Kauto Star. I think his confidence is growing and he's improving all the time."

Johnny, meanwhile, adds 11/1 Tekao in the JP McManus hoops for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. 

"He has to run once more before he's qualified, there's a race in Naas that Brazil won last year (en route to this). I think he'll go for that," Jphnny added. "His mark looks very lenient after his maiden hurdle win."

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