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WATCH: Upping The Ante: Johnny's off the Facile Vega bandwagon

The Dublin Racing Festival was the big racing newsmaker over recent days and the Leopardstown extravaganza didn't disappoint, but it did leave Johnny Dineen in a bit of a quandary.

The popular Upping The Ante analyst has been a major cheerleader for Facile Vega for quite a few months but, following his defeat on Sunday, a rethink was required and Johnny is jumping off the bandwagon.

On this week's episode, David Jennings and Johnny answer your questions before looking ahead to the action at Newbury and Warwick this weekend. Watch the show on the link above or read below for some of the best snippets from Episode 14 of Upping The Ante in association with bet365.

Facile Vega flop impossible to forgive

Given that he has been such a vociferous supporter of Facile Vega across the winter months, Sunday's shock reverse at Leopardstown would have come as a real blow to Johnny Dineen.

Sent off as the 4/9fav for the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle, Facile Vega folded tamely and was the last of five finishers as his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Il Etait Temps scored.

Facile Vega is now 4/1 to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on 14th March, with Il Etait Temps at 5/1 and Johnny wasn't in a forgiving mood.

"No way in the wide earthly world [would I give him another chance]," says Johnny in response to the opening Question from the Crowd."It's an inexcusable performance. You could never entertain him as a bet again in [the top races] he'll be running in. I could never ever back him again anyway.

"When they turned out of the back straight, you'd say he was the most likely winner and in the space of about 150 yards he was gone completely. For me anyway, the horse has an issue. I think he has no chance in the Supreme.

"Can [anyone] tell me the last horse to win in Cheltenham off the back of a run like that? I can't. It was a spectacular collapse."

Townend's class is permanent

Paul Townend may have won the Irish Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Hurdle over the weekend, but he didn't escape criticism. The champion jockey took some from his boss Willie Mullins for his rides on Lossiemouth on Saturday and Facile Vega on Sunday.

Johnny Dineen admitted they weren't his finest moments, but he's not about to start doubting Ireland's champion jockey.

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"You'd have to say he rode a few injudicious races at the weekend. He definitely went too quick on Facile Vega. The ride on Lossiemouth, I don't know - it was their pacemaker came back on top of him. It was one of those things.

"I think he's a great jockey. Willie Mullins said a few things, everyone says things in the heat of the moment that maybe the following day you' think: 'I maybe shouldn't have said that'. I think there was a touch of that in it. Paul Townend's a brilliant jockey."

Townend is 1/5 to be Top Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival next month, with Danny Mullins priced at 20/1. David Jennings echoed the feeling that the Corkman is a top pilot.

"The one thing I love about him is his mental strength," says DJ. "It's such a high pressurised situation. Lossiemouth was beaten, he had a shocker there. He comes back out and rides Galopin Des Champs as if nothing has ever happened.

"He's level headed. There's no up and down. He's arguably the best jockey in [Britain or Ireland]."

El Fabiolo the star performer

Johnny's 'Performance of the Week' slot gave strong mentions to State Man and Mighty Potter, both winners at Leopardstown on Sunday, but El Fabiolo got the nod for his win in the Irish Arkle.

He beat the likes of Banbridge and Appreciate It and did so with a degree of authority.

It saw him cut to 9/4 to win the Arkle in Cheltenham next month, with Appreciate It now 9/1. Johnny feels El Fabiolo is the biggest danger to ante-post 11/8 favourite Jonbon.

"I thought El Fabiolo was an awesome performance, equally as good as Mighty Potter if not more so. There was more depth in El Fabiolo's race, whereas Mighty Potter had the National Hunt Chase favourite behind.

"You'd never again have a shilling on Appreciate It in any race, over any distance."

Will he beat Jonbon, asked David Jennings of their 14th March showdown in the Cotswolds?

"It will be some race anyway," says Johnny. "If you said to me that El Fabiolo will jump as well as Jonbon, I'd say he probably would. The percentage call is probably Jonbon.

"The fences in Cheltenham come quicker and they come on turns. I think Jonbon will probably force a mistake from El Fabiolo [by jumping better]."

Sweet 16s in latest ante-post Festival picks

After going with a pair of short-priced runners last week, both DJ and Johnny were putting up 16/1 chances this time around in their ante-post picks for the Cheltenham Festival.

Racing Post ace DJ landed on 16/1 Pembroke in the County Hurdle for trainer Dan Skelton.

"I think this horse is crying out for a strongly run County Hurdle," he suggests. "He ran in the Ballymore Trial on Trials Day and travelled into the race beautifully.

"I just don't think he saw out 2m4½f. I like class horses that, even when their stamina is giving way, he still tried to get to the winner Rock My Way.

"A big field and a fast pace will suit him. He's not good enough for a Ballymore or a Supreme. He's off 136 now and Dan has won the race before."

After abandoning his love-affair with Facile Vega, Johnny Dineen completed his about-turn in the Festival curtain raiser by adding 16/1 High Definition into the mix.

He unseated JJ Slevin in Sunday's Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the DRF, but the previous course maiden hurdle winner and smart Flat performer has shown Johnny enough to make him a player.

"I think it's worth a stab at that price," he said. "In my book, he had Facile Vega in bother before that one fell. If they can sort his jumping and get him into a rhythm the next day, and the first three or four in Cheltenham all come in a straight line at least, you'd be hoping he could get into a rhythm.

"I think he's going to get a soft lead. Nothing will want to go near him after seeing what happened to Facile Vega when he got into a ruck with him. If he got loose in front, he' be a very dangerous animal."

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