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WATCH: Upping The Ante – Pundits making Festival predictions

With less than a week before the Cheltenham Festival gets underway David Jennings and Johnny Dineen are back for Episode 18 of Upping The Ante as excitement hits fever pitch.

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

They then share their weekly charity bets - with Johnny going for six winners in a row - before finishing off with their all-important ante-post Cheltenham Festival selections.

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

Festival predictions from pundits 

With the Festival now almost upon us this week's Questions from the Crowd were very focused. 

The first saw Johnny and DJ giving their respective one-two-three predictions in the four Championship races - with Johnny going for a shock Gold Cup result of Noble Yeats finishing ahead of Stattler and Conflated in an all-Irish podium.

David has Galopin Des Champs ahead of Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame as he sided with two British-trained runners to follow home the favourite.

The next question sought reaction to last week's handicap weight announcements and asked the pundits to give their Lucky15 selections for the Festival handicaps. 

Johnny put forward Corach Rambler at 10/1 in the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday, Shoot First at 7/2 in the Pertemps Final, Imagine at 7/1 in the Martin Pipe and Datsalrightgino in the Festival Plate at 16/1.

DJ countered with Happygolucky in the Ultima at 16/1, Walking On Air in the Pertemps Final at 10/1, 'his beloved' Might I at 14/1 in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and 20/1 Beacon Edge in the Coral Cup.

Time will tell if the lads are able to strike it lucky across the notoriously tough Cheltenham Festival handicaps with their selections. 

Prestbury Cup landslide for Ireland 

The Prestbury Cup will once more see the Britain versus Ireland battle taking precedence over the four days in the Cotswolds for national pride and it's 10/1 the home team to come out on top for the first since 2015, while Ireland are 1/12 to secure another win.

With 28 races across the week, Johnny doesn't see Ireland failing to get 15 winners.

"[Britain] to win is the worst bet of the century!" he said. "I wouldn't back it at any price.

"When I look through every race, and even giving them the benefit of the doubt at times, I struggle to see Britain getting nine. I could see 21-7 or something like that. I'll go 20-8. They won't get nine anyway."

A 20-8 win for Ireland in the Prestbury Cup is treading at 13/2 currently, with Johnny adamant that the Irish will have a landslide 7-0 win on St Patrick's Day - the final day of the Festival.

Related Cheltenham Festival News

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Impaire Et Passe catching the ears

Both Upping The Ante pundits have been doing their bit on the Cheltenham Festival Preview Night circuit in recent days and they were agreed that one horse has really come to prominence across the board.

It was 11/4 chance Impaire Et Passe for Willie Mullins in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday, where he has now displaced 3/1 Hermes Allen for Paul Nicholls as favourite in the 2m5f Grade 1 heat.

"Of all the previews I've done, the one horse, every time - (is) Impaire Et Passe," said David. "That is the one from the Mullins team, from the judges like yourself - from anybody at all you talk to that you'd think a lot of them.

"Lydia Hislop, Ruby Walsh, Tony Mullins, David Casey - all the right people are making noises about Impaire Et Passe. Which sickens me as I tipped Hermes Allen on this show!"

His Mullins-trained stablemate Gaelic Warrior is now 9/2 for the Ballymore and Johnny says the vibes for him are not strong.

"Listening to people at preview nights you'd be loath [to oppose Impaire Et Passe]. Gaelic Warior won't be winning that race anyway, the way fellas are talking. It's like Gaelic Warrior isn't even running."

Monviel catches the eye in Imperial Cup

As always on the Saturday before Cheltenham the Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (2.25) is the feature race at Sandown Park, with £56k on offer to the winner.

David puts forward Monviel at 8/1 for Philip Hobbs after he caught the eye in fifth last time at Newbury.

"I like Monviel here. I thought he ran a cracker in the Betfair Hurdle. He was the only one that really made ground from off the pace," says DJ.

"Nothing went right during the race and I think Sandown will really suit him. I think anyone that watched him at Newbury would say he was better than the bare result."

Johnny, meanwhile, put forward 14/1 Punctuation for Fergal O'Brien and Paddy Brennan to be 'on the premises'.

Johnny aims for six of the best in charity bet battle 

After five winning charity bets on the spin, David suggests people are now tuning into Upping The Ante solely to find out what Johnny's going for next in the quest for six-in-a-row!

Johnny now leads DJ in their charity bet standings after his winning spree and is on course to win their season-long battle with time fast running out.

"I was hoping to go for one in Thurles on Thursday but I couldn't find one," says Johnny. "So I'm after nipping over to Carlisle for the 4.00 on Thursday.

"A horse called Dare To Shout belonging to Ann Hamilton and Danny McMenamin is riding. It won a race in Kelso there lately. It has one horse to worry about, Miss Lamb getting a stone but that should help make the price.

"He made mincemeat of Richhill the last day, and that's not the world's worst horse I'd say. This horse is on the up. He won well in Kelso. I think he'll be up to it."

DJ meanwhile went with 8/1 Monviel in the Imperial Cup as he looks to play catch-up and maybe even overtake his Upping The Ante sparring partner.

"You're not out of it," Johnny told his co-host. "But I quietly fancy myself!"

DJ dares to dance with Might I

With less than seven days until The Festival kicks off, the lads are getting close to completing their ante-post portfolios. 

Johnny put 10/1 Corach Rambler for the Ultima on Tuesday onto his list. 

"I couldn't see that many unexposed horses that I'd be worried about. Plus I couldn't get over that he was only raised 6lb for winning the race last year. If he doesn't get too far back I can see him winning this."

David, meanwhile, is siding with an old friend in Might I at 14/1 in the Martin Pipe next Friday.

"For the last six weeks in a row I've wanted to tip Might I, and the reason I haven't was the backlash I thought I'd get!

"But I'm old enough now to take the flack. 

"Finishing second in a Grade 1 at Aintree last season behind Three Stripe Life is good form I think. He's had the perfect preparation for this running on the New Course and Lorcan Murtagh knows him inside out, whereas most of these conditionals will be riding their horses for the first time.

"I think 14/1 is a cracking price with bet365 – he might even go off favourite on the day." 

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