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Punters win thousands on controversial racehorse Dreal Deal whose rapid rise has caught the eyes of racing chiefs

PUNTERS were celebrating getting one over the bookies after 22-1 rank outsider Dreal Deal continued his rapid rise.

Shrewd bettors piled on Ronan McNally's outstanding six-year-old after his odds drifted massively from as low as 7-1 pre-race.

So unfancied was this horse that it went to being the outsider of seven - before storming up the home straight to win by three lengths at Punchestown last Sunday.

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One punter was a cool £3,300 better off after twice backing the horse to win at £50 a go.

Dreal Deal made a mockery of bookies despite for all the world looking like he would snap his winning streak.

Turning into the straight on the two-mile race he looked totally out of gas.

But this hurdle supremo responded with a sudden burst of energy when asked by jockey Denis O'Regan, to rout his rivals once more.

It is now six wins in a row for Dreal Deal - an amazing run that has caught the eyes of racing chiefs.

In seven races last year Dreal Deal never finished better than eighth, ran at odds of 250-1 in one contest and finished a combined 277 lengths behind the winners.

Everything changed last September when he won a handicap hurdle at Navan.

After being nowhere in his first seven races, he was now suddenly starting as favourite - and justifying it with convincing wins.

But this horse's incredible rise quickly set off alarm bells with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

Twice they launched investigations into circumstances around the horse's runs.

The first came after that Navan win when Dreal Deal was backed from 20-1 to 6-4.

Punters lashed out on social media at the huge gamble and IHRB opened a probe into the race, with an examination of betting patterns reportedly part of their work.

Chiefs opened another investigation after Dreal Deal won again at Limerick in October.

McNally explained the rapid improvement by saying his horses had recovered from an illness in his yard that struck in November 2019.

The owner and trainer said: "I don't know what they're investigating. I've explained for clarity how the horses have improved. There's no hiding that. It's quite simple.

"I don't know what the referrals are about. I told the truth and said what I said on the day so I don't know what the referrals are even about.

"My horses were sick, everyone knows this. All my horses have shown improvement. It is what it is. I’m just going to go and do what I’m doing and train a few winners.

"I’m happy what’s happening with my own horses and that’s all I can worry about."

An IHRB spokesperson said: "The investigation around that referral is ongoing. Some elements of the process have been delayed due the current pandemic but the process is continuing."

So it is then that this fan favourite will head to Cheltenham with punters hoping he can upset the odds once again.

From nowhere, the horse, bought for just under £45,000, is now as low as 16-1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle and its first place prize of around £70,000 at March's Cheltenham Festival.

So you can indulge McNally a little and let him dream of a win that just 12 months ago looked impossible.

He said: "He won't be going to the Dublin Racing Festival in Leopardstown and will probably go to Cheltenham now. I think he's entitled to go there now.

"If we have to go for a lesser race in between, we will do that, and if not it will be straight to Cheltenham.

"He will probably go for the Supreme, but he will be entered in the Ballymore as well. That was the dream, but he had to go and do that today.

"He's done it now - so we can dream!"

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