Rolling Star (right) faces a battle to retain favouritismPICTURE: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Rolling Star faces 'fierce battle' for favouritism
THE sponsor of the Ladbroke Hurdle on Thursday predicted a “fierce battle” for favouritism in the last big betting heat before Boxing Day.
The market for the £150,000 handicap at Ascot on Saturday has been headed by Rolling Star all week, but his position is coming under serious threat, with City Slicker and Chatterbox co-market leaders with a couple of firms, and the gamble on Totalize showing no sign of abating.
Ladbrokes are shortest at 5-1 about Rolling Star, the choice of Nicky Henderson's stable jockey Barry Geraghty, but spokesman David Williams said: "Tony McCoy's presence on City Slicker will ensure Rolling Star doesn't have the market lead all to himself. There's every chance there will be a fierce battle for favouritism come Saturday afternoon with Totalize's odds continuing to plummet."
Chatterbox is Rolling Star's stablemate and the market suggests it must have been a tough call for Geraghty. David Bass has been called up to ride Chatterbox for the first time in public, though he revealed he has plenty of experience of riding the lightly-raced five-year-old on the gallops.
Victory would represent a career highpoint for Bass, who said: “This will be one of the better ones I've been on and I’m really pleased.
“I’ve ridden him in a few bits of work recently and he seems in good order. He’s a classy horse and I think the hustle and bustle of a big handicap will suit him quite well."
Chatterbox was runner-up to Ifandbutwhynot on his reappearance in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury last month, and finished fourth to The New One in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on his final start of last term, having won his first three races.
The maximum 21 were declared for the Ladbroke, which shares top billing on the Ascot card with the Wessex Youth Trust Long Walk Hurdle.
The going at Ascot on Thursday was changed to soft, from good to soft, soft in places, after 10mm of rain on Wednesday night, and clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: "It is forecast to rain from 11pm on Friday through to racing on Saturday."