Totalize (far right) in the Fred Winter at the festival where he finished fifthPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Ellison confident Totalize can figure in Ladbroke
BRIAN ELLISON, the trainer of the first plunge horse in the last big betting contest before Christmas, did nothing to dampen punters' enthusiasm for Totalize on Tuesday stating: "he's got a good chance".
Damp weather is what the unexposed four-year-old wants in the build up to the £150,000 Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, and Brian Ellison hopes the softening ground will play to the strengths of the son of Authorized, who is proving hugely popular with punters.
The race sponsor initially went 16-1 from 25-1, but were later forced into 12s.
After 26mm of rain fell on Ascot in 48 hours, the going was on Tuesday eased to good to soft, soft in places, from good to soft - having been good on Sunday morning - with clerk of the course Chris Stickels prepared for further softening in the face of a largely wet forecast through to Saturday.
Totalize, beaten favourite when badly drawn in a valuable Leopardstown handicap on the Flat last month, needs two to drop out to be guaranteed his first start over hurdles since finishing fifth in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival in March, which was only his fourth start over hurdles.
"We'll have to see if he gets in but if he does he'll run well," said Ellison. "He won a couple, then ran a great race at Cheltenham. He won at Pontefract and was then badly drawn in the Movember Handicap at Leopardstown.
"He's got a good chance and the more rain the better. He's by Authorized so he loves soft ground."
Stickels said on Tuesday: "The course has taken the rain well and we're now good to soft, soft in places. It's forecast to be wet from late afternoon tomorrow through the night, better on Thursday and then wet again on Friday night and through Saturday.
"There's a possibility the ground will ease. At best it will be similar to how it is now."
The Willie Mullins-trained City Slicker is a solid 7-1 second favourite with the sponsor behind market leader Rolling Star and on Tuesday received a strong endorsement from jockey Ruby Walsh - though he will not be on board.
Walsh told Racing UK: "City Slicker is likely to run in the Ladbroke Hurdle and as he's owned by JP McManus my old friend AP McCoy is likely to ride him.
"He has a good chance and was a good handicap hurdle winner the last day at Punchestown, so Ascot will suit him going right-handed. It's obviously a competitive Ladbroke, but not an outstanding one. We'd have a chance."