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Upping The Ante Episode 4: Fergal O'Brien to train his first Festival winner

Welcome along to Episode 4 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 Newbury, Newcastle & Fairyhouse this week.

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

The lads also pay their respects after the sad passing of bookmaker David Hyland. Johnny Dineen spent many years in the same betting ring as Hyland and learned so much by watching how he operated.

'Questions From The Crowd'

The lads always kick off proceedings answering some 'Questions From The Crowd' and the first question that came in was from Jeremy Duffy, aimed at Johnny Dineen.

Jeremy asked: "Of all the mad stuff that happened over the weekend, what performance or result shocked you most of all?"

Johnny responded: "Some of the stuff I wouldn't say was mad at all. Okay, Shishkin standing at the start was probably mad, but you could entertain him getting beaten. 

"Tullyhill getting beaten I would say was a major shock. I looked at the betting on the previous night and I think he was 2/7. I would have backed him at 2/7, but I wasn't interested when he went to 1/6 or 1/7.

Johnny continued: "He was beaten 24-lengths. That's a long way for a 1/8 shot, so the winning distance is baffling, the performance is baffling, and as far as being a Cheltenham candidate, that puts him out with the washing."

Performance of the week

Johnny called out his three best performances of the week.

In third spot was Halka Du Tabert, who won on her chasing debut at Cork on Sunday by a wide margin for trainer Gordon Elliott. Owner Kenneth Alexander could have another beautiful mare on his hands.

The second-best performance of the week for Johnny was the Gigginstown-owned and Willie Mullins-trained Predators Gold, who powered home to win on hurdling debut at Punchestown on Saturday and looks a staying hurdler to keep an eye on.

However, the horse for all the notebooks out there this week is Gaelic Warrior.

The Willie Mullins-trained Grade 1-winning hurdler couldn't have impressed more on chasing debut at Punchestown on Saturday, leaving a good horse in Inothewayurthinkin trailing in his wake.

"It was a one-in-ten-year performance I thought," says Johnny. "It was one that would really take your breath away. You are looking back at the likes of Senior Chief and Inothewayurthinkin who wouldn't be bad horses wondering how he's so far ahead of them.

"There was a wow factor to it that you wouldn't see too often. I doubt it was a one-off either. 

"I'd say the fact that they didn't bother going for the Stayers' Hurdle means that they must have thought this fella will win all around him over fences.

"I'd say they're thinking he is a Gold Cup horse, without a doubt. You just wouldn't see performances like that too often. I couldn't help but put it in at number one."

The Festival Teams

Johnny is staying put this week in terms of additions to his portfolio, but if he was forced to put one horse up, it would be Gaelic Warrior for the Turners Novices' Chase, who is currently 3/1 with bet365.

However, DJ certainly does have an addition for his Festival team this week and it is the Fergal O'Brien-trained Dysart Enos, who is a standout 8/1 with bet365 for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

"She's entered on Saturday at Newbury", DJ says. "You're trying to pick a race that the horse will definitely run in, and a race potentially where there's not too many contenders, and that's what I've done.

"Fergal O'Brien hasn't had a Cheltenham Festival winner yet, but I think that's going to change in March because I think Dysart Enos is probably the best horse he's had. This is a star this mare."

DJ is clearly extremely excited about this mare and he continues: "Just go back to the run at Aintree last season in that mares' bumper. There were good horses there.

"I know the likes of Williamstowndancer have been running through the summer over here, but it was just the way she put distance between herself and the rest of the field inside the final furlong.

"Again at Huntingdon, her jumping was sketchy at times. She was particularly slow at one where the camera was side-on in the back straight, but just after the last when Paddy Brennan gave her a little bit of urgency, she just quickened right away."

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