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Upping The Ante Episode 18: Johnny puts his neck On The Line in Hunters' Chase

Welcome along to Episode 18 of Upping The Ante in association with bet365, with David Jennings and Johnny Dineen counting down to the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

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

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

We've picked out some of the best bits from the latest edition of Upping The Ante, while the show is available to watch in full in the video above.

Horse Racing

The Festival Teams

DJ has a full field of 10 for his festival team and, with Johnny having one pick remaining to fill up his team, he has another to add in the form of It's On The Line, who is an 11/4 chance for the Hunters' Chase.

Johnny stated: "It's On The Line probably has one horse to beat here - Ferns Lock. I think if it comes to a struggle, there's only going to be one winner. I think Ferns Lock is a touch on the soft side.

"He's the classier horse of the two, but they're going to apply the cheekpieces on It's On The Line at Cheltenham. I've seen Ferns Lock check out in races before and, if it does come to those last two fences up the hill, I'd favour It's On The Line."

DJ then asked Johnny if he thinks it's a race between the two, and Johnny responded: "Well it's looking that way. Like Billaway is the third or fourth favourite. It isn't even a full field, there's only 19 in it.

"It's not like the normal cavalry charge. Premier Magic won it last year at 66/1. Put it this way, I wouldn't fancy It's On The Line in a lot of renewals of this race, but I think this is a really weak Foxhunters' and I would fancy him quite strongly."

'Questions From The Crowd'

The lads then moved on to answering some 'Questions From The Crowd' and the first question that came in was from Sam Lynch.

Sam asked: "Who is the best horse never to have won a race at the Cheltenham Festival?"

Johnny was straight in with a reply: "I would have picked either Carvill's Hill or Wayward Lad, and I went with Carvill's Hill. I just looked at his form and I actually didn't realise how good a horse he was to be honest.

"I was 18 or 19. He was a brilliant horse. I couldn't get over what kind of campaigning he got. He won the two-mile race Dublin Racing Festival equivalent by 15-lengths as a novice hurdler.

"He went from there to win the race that Mystical Power won (Moscow Flyer) and did not go to Cheltenham. It would be the same thing as Ballyburn not going to Cheltenham this year."

An excited Johnny continued: "They said he was too young to go there. What a load of pony that was. He went to the Gold Cup as a novice yet he wasn't able to go at all as a novice hurdler."

Performance of the week

Johnny called out his three best performances of the week.

In third spot was Mister Meggit, who was one of only four horses to participate in the Doncaster bumper at the weekend after a flurry of withdrawals due to the ground. However, he won in style and is currently 16/1 for the Champion Bumper.

The second-best performance of the week for Johnny was Thunder Rock, who bounced back to his very best to get the better of a rejuvenated Minella Drama in the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso.

Moving on and the horse for all the notebooks out there this week is Blood Destiny, who justified favouritism when winning the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase over two miles at Naas in a canter on Saturday.

"He beat him (Spillane's Tower) fair and square to be fair," says Johnny. "You'd be wondering why he wasn't running at Cheltenham off the back of that performance.

"I think he'd be under 10/1 for the Arkle. It looks like he's going for the WillowWarm Gold Cup now.

"I'd say Spillane's Tower will have a chance against him at Fairyhouse at the same time over the extra half-mile. He beat him there already, so it will be a lot closer."

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