John Dineen will mark your card for Cheltenham at previews nights

Joe Seward looks ahead to the Festival next month
John Dineen will mark your card for Cheltenham at previews nights

Churchstonewarrior and Aidan Coleman won for trainer Jonathan Sweeney (cap) and owner Tom Hegarty. Picture: Healy Racing

WITH the Cheltenham Festival less than a month away the Cheltenham Festival preview night scene is already in full swing.

Well-known Youghal professional punter Johnny Dineen has made a big impression since teaming up with the Racing Post’s “Up The Ante” and he’s been much in demand for these preview night’s from as far away as Dubai to Dungannon.

Johnny needs no introduction to Cheltenham having stood as a bookmaker at Prestbury Park for 18 festivals. His candid witty style has made him a huge favourite with viewers and his in-depth knowledge of punting and bookmaking gives him an angle from both sides of the rails.

The good news for Cork racing enthusiasts is that Johnny Dineen will be on the panels at a number of Cheltenham nights in Cork over the next few weeks.

Youghal bookmaker John Dineen at Cheltenham. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Youghal bookmaker John Dineen at Cheltenham. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Johnny joins me in Quinlan’s Bar in Blackpool on Tuesday, February 28 along with Doneraile jockey Darragh O’Keeffe and Joseph O’Brien’s assistant trainer Brendan Powell, who rode Rhyme ‘N’ Reason to victory in the 1988 Grand National.

Cheltenham nights for National Hunt fans

Tuesday, February 28: Quinlan’s Bar, Blackpool: Darragh O’Keeffe, Johnny Dineen, Brendan Powell, MC Joe Seward.

Wednesday, March 1: Stables Bar, Carrigaline: Gary O’Brien, Johnny Dineen, Davy Russell, Kevin O’Ryan.

Tuesday, March 7: The Castle, Glanmire: Gary O’Brien, Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell, Johnny Dineen.

Last Sunday in Navan, Rathcormac-based trainer Jonathan Sweeny teamed up with Cork jockey Aidan Coleman as Churchstonewarrior earned his passage to the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham with a strong staying performance in the Grade Two Ten Up Chase.

Longer term the winner might make up into a National horse.

Sweeny who joined the training ranks 10 years ago had won the Grade 3 Solerina Hurdle with Rosey’s Hollow two years ago in Fairyhouse.

A day earlier in Naas, Conna trainer Jimmy Mangan produced Spillane’s Tower to win the maiden hurdle in the colours of JP McManus, denying Cork owner Michael O’Flynn with Franciscan Rock, who had to settle for second again at the Kildare venue.

Spillane’s Tower had been a big eye-catcher in Wexford last October and Mangan believes he’ll be a better horse next year.

To this observer, he’s an embryonic staying chaser and he looks an exciting prospect.

Another Conna native making waves is UK-based jockey Johnny Burke who is enjoying another superb season across the water.

Johnny teamed up with Woolhope trainer Tom Lacey last Saturday at Warwick to land the penultimate race on Imperial Alex, justifying strong market support in the process.

On Monday, Burke made the long trek to Catterick for just one ride in the concluding bumper aboard the 1/2 favourite Tedtwo.

The journey proved worthwhile as Tedtwo gave Johnny an armchair ride, winning very easily for Malton trainer Brian Ellison.

That win moved Burke on to 43 winners for the season and keeps him well on target to match, or better, last season’s impressive figure of 63 victories.

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