Time to Totalize them
The Insider expects Totalize to translate his improved form on the Flat to hurdling in The Ladbroke at Ascot on Saturday.
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The stables of David Pipe and Nicky Henderson have combined to win five of the last seven renewals of this interesting race (admittedly, two of the Pond House wins came with Martin at the helm) while the last two runnings have gone to Gordon Elliott and Alan King.
Pipe, in particular, sets us quite a poser with six entries at the five-day stage and, although it's easy enough to put a line through four of them, it's not remotely tempting to try and choose between Dell'Arca and Swing Bowler.
Rolling Star heads the market ahead of the novice City Slicker (who has an alternative engagement 24 hours earlier at the same track as well as further ahead) and it's possible that he's not handicapped out of this with there being some talk of him developing into a runner with outside claims in the Champion Hurdle.
At three times the price, the equally promising Ptit Zig is of more interest with connections convinced that he wouldn't come into his own until this year, an opinion he justified when winning a Grade One at Auteuil.
Backing four year olds under big weights in a handicap such as this makes limited appeal though, and he will have had to have improved in leaps and bounds if he's to reverse Fred Winter form with Flaxen Flare whose finishing effort in the Greatwood behind Dell' Arca was a shade disappointing.
Gordon Elliott's charge remains capable of better, while it would be no surprise to see Chatterbox leave the form of his underwhelming reappearance at Newbury behind with this valuable prize up for grabs.
His underachieving stablemate Snake Eyes could be thrown in if reproducing his homework on the track as he steps into handicap company but that's a complete punt, albeit he's well named for such a gamble.
He's the right sort of price to take a chance on, but at even bigger odds I can't resist the claims of Totalize who represents the excellent Brian Ellison.
Ellison saddled Marsh Warbler to finish a close-up fifth behind Raya Star in this in 2011 but the son of Barathea had already by that stage shown his hand to the handicapper in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow.
There are no such concerns with this son of Authorized who races from the same mark as when a 14-length fifth behind Flaxen Flare in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March.
He's now a stone better off with the winner and 21lb better off with the third, Ptit Zig, and there's every reason to believe that he has improved in the interim as he's shown progressive form on the Flat this autumn, winning at Pontefract and finishing a respectable sixth in a Premier Handicap at Leopardstown.
Those two runs are also encouraging in that there doesn't appear to have been a repeat of the bleeding that was reported following his Festival run, a performance that it's possible to argue should be upgraded in light of that.
The ground may not be quite as testing as he'd prefer but conditions are certainly coming in his favour with more than a little rain about - the going was officially changed from good to good to soft on Monday morning - and the ground retaining what moisture there is.
Ellison is an adept target trainer and has proved time and again that he can produce the goods granted the right horses, Totalize looks every inch the right type of horse for this race and 25/1 looks to underestimate his chances.
Selection: Totalize - 1pt each-way