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WATCH: Upping The Ante: Keep the faith in Energumene

Episode 13 of Upping The Ante has dropped as David Jennings and Johnny Dineen reflect on a mammoth Trials Day at Cheltenham and look ahead to some major Irish action this weekend.

On this week's episode, David and Johnny answer your questions before looking ahead to the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

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

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

Has Johnny lost faith in Energumene?

The opening 'Question from the Crowd' this week was typically aimed at Johnny Dineen on the back of Energumene's shock defeat in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon.

The ace tipster wasn't forecasting any setback for the Willie Mullins inmate going into the weekend but has he lost faith now, with Energumene a big drifter out to 2/1 to defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown on 15th March following this setback?

"He was there with some sort of a chance going to the last, even though he was beat when he made that mistake," began Johnny as he suggested all is not lost for Energumene.

"My reading of the race was that he was ridden completely wrong. [He should have been] out and gone [in front]. That's what he's won every race [before] doing.

"I can guarantee you one thing, in the Champion Chase, he may not take them on from the start, but [Townend] will bury them after about four fences and he'll go for home then. There's no way he'll be ridden like this the next time."

Though David Jennings reminded Johnny that Energumene was ridden with a degree of patience in the Champion Chase last time, he suggests that was a weak race and aggressive tactics are the way forward.

"I look back at his form, every one of his runs – made all, made all, made all. There's no need to drop this horse in. He's got to be let go, left to attack the fences and put the pressure on the ones behind him.

"For a horse that jumps as well as he does, he was jumping into the back of yokes, he was pecking at fences [on Saturday]. He wasn't allowed to use his strengths. It's madness holding onto those kind of horses."

Saturday's winner Editeur Du Gite is 11/2 for Champion Chase glory, with last year's Arkle winner Edwardstone now joint-fav at 2/1 but Johnny forecasts revenge for Energumene.

"I think he'll be ridden a lot differently the next day, and I think he'll win."

Elliott pair deliver top performances

After his vociferous defence of Energumene, Johnny moved on to his 'Performance of the Week' picks and suggested there was 'not a lot of difference' in the top three, while admitting he could have picked as many as six standout efforts over the previous seven days.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Stage Star, now 16/1 for the Turners Novices' Chase on 16th March, got a nod for his Cheltenham success carrying top-weight on Saturday, with Harry Cobden applauded for a 'perfect ride', though Johnny cautions that Aintree might be his spring target.

Gordon Elliott's Fairyhouse novice hurdle winner Three Card Brag got an honourable mention in second spot, though with a caveat that he may well require soft ground wherever he goes later in the season, and the McNeill Family runner is now trading at 9/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on 17th March.

"If you got heavy ground, I fancy Three Card Brag would win the Albert Bartlett by a hurdle, he's that superior to the others – but the ground is absolutely key for him," says Dineen.

The 'Performance of the Week' was reserved for another Elliott inmate, this time Galmoy Hurdle winner Teahupoo, who scooted away from his rivals under Davy Russell to back up his Hatton's Grace win before Christmas.

Admitting he too probably wants the ground soft, Johnny suggested: "You'd rarely see a horse quickening at the end of a three-mile race the way he did. At the back of the second last he just took off."

Teahupoo is now 5/2 favourite for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham on 16th March.

Dublin Racing Festival preview

The lads also looked ahead to all of the Grade 1 action that is in store across two days of the Dublin Racing Festival this Saturday and Sunday at Leopardstown.

Johnny forecasts Willie Mullins to dominate – no shocks there – and put forward 11/8 Appreciate It to come out best of the Closutton contenders in the Irish Arkle on Saturday (2.30).

"If Appreciate It goes, I'd have him," says Johnny. "I can't have Dysart Dynamo anyway. I just don't think he has the level of class.

"I think Jonbon will definitely beat Dysart Dynamo if they meet in Cheltenham – I wouldn't be so sure he'd beat the other [Mullins] runners."

The Irish Champion Hurdle (Sunday 3.10) will garner plenty of attention as 10/11 State Man for Willie Mullins goes up against three-time winner Honeysuckle, trading at 15/8 to rebound from the first defeat of her career for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

"I think State Man will win," says Johnny Dineen of Willie Mullins' rising star in the two-mile division, though he suggests market confidence in Honeysuckle come the day would be worth noting.

"I don't know how good Honeysuckle will be, but I think the betting will get her right. The betting got her right every other day. I definitely don't think Vauban will beat State Man. Every single day of the week I'd take State Man to beat Vauban."

Cheltenham Festival selections

This week's ante-post selections for Cheltenham in March fall into what David Jennings calls the 'very safe' category as both he and Johnny have added fancied horses to their ante-post portfolios.

Johnny went first and sided with 7/2 chance It's For Me in the Champion Bumper on 15th March.

"I'd expect Patrick Mullins to ride him and if he does, he'll probably be 2/1 on the day."

David Jennings revealed that Patrick Mullins was 'pleasantly surprised' by the manner in which It's For Me won on debut at Navan recently.

DJ meanwhile said his plan this week was to find 'one horse that will win and is too big of a price' and that landed him on Luccia at 3/1 in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

"After watching Ashroe Diamond get out of a pocket to win at Fairyhouse on Saturday," said the Racing Post ace. "I just don't think she's going to be beating Luccia.

"I went back and watched the race at Newbury and there was a swagger about it. It was the type of performance you'd say to yourself: 'She could run in a Supreme Novices' Hurdle'.

"I think she will go off about 6/4 in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle on the day. She's a cut above what's in the race."

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