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Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle Preview – Saturday 23rd December

Last updated: December 22, 2017 by Leon Marshal

The most valuable race on the card at Ascot on Saturday is the £150,000 Grade 3 Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle over two miles.

The race was formerly known as The Ladbroke and is one of the richest two-mile hurdles of the season. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful trainer in the race with four victories, most recently with Brain Power last year. That horse powered to victory under a record weight of 11st 11lbs to earn a tilt at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Henderson’s previous winners were Chauvanist (2002), Jack The Giant (2007) and Sentry Duty (2008). Gordon Elliott has won the race twice with Cause Of Causes (2012) and Bayan (2014).

Horses running and jumping over the hurdle at Ascot

Henderson chasing fifth race victory

Henderson saddles the ante-post favourite this year in Charli Parcs, a four-year-old gelding by Anabaa Blue. He was a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle last season but fell in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. He took his chance at Cheltenham but could only stay on at one pace in sixth behind Defi De Seuil. The handicapper rated him 145 for his handicap debut and he finished a close second to High Ridge at Newbury.

Stable companion Verdana Blue was well backed here in November but finished only fifth to Elgin. She was beaten nearly seven lengths and was receiving 4lbs from the winner. Verdana Blue won nicely here next time and is 3lbs better off with Elgin on Saturday.

Elgin bids for big-race hat-trick

Elgin has been a revelation for Alan King this season. The five-year-old has won valuable handicaps at Ascot and Cheltenham already this season. He battled on well to hold Limited Reserve at Ascot in November and that form has been upheld since.

King then sent him to Cheltenham for the Greatwood Hurdle where he defeated Misterton by a neck. Third-placed Old Guard has won since and the Greatwood is always one of the most competitive hurdles of the season. He has gone up a further 6lbs on Saturday.

Evan Williams saddles the grey Silver Streak, a comfortable winner at Chepstow in October. That was a lot better than any of his previous performances but he is yet to be tested on very soft ground. The handicapper has raised him 8lbs for that success but he has been well backed this week.

Divin Bere set for debut for Nicholls

Air Horse One has run two solid races this season at Ascot and Newbury. He finished fourth to Elgin in November and is now 5lbs better off. Harry Fry’s gelding then finished third to Old Guard at Newbury off a 4lbs higher mark.

Paul Nicholls is yet to win this race and relies on Divin Bere, runner-up in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March. He then finished a fine second to Triumph Hurdle winner Defi De Seuil at Liverpool. The French import was transferred to Nicholls from the Henderson stable last month. His future entries include the Arkle Trophy which suggests that his future lies over fences.

Two horses running at Ascot during the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle

Magic Dancer is on a hat-trick after victories at Kempton and Cheltenham. He travelled nicely before beating Oxwich Bay at Cheltenham but is now 9lbs higher in the handicap. Chesterfield was progressive last season but made no show behind Elgin first time out in November.

Veinard is on a light weight here and makes the trip across the Irish Sea for Gordon Elliott. He sometimes flatters only to deceive but has some good bits of form in his record. He was sixth in last season’s Betfair Hurdle and looked menacing at Fairyhouse last time out before staying on at one pace.

Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle Betting Tips

Elgin @8-1 Betfred

Veinard @25-1

Each-way ¼ odds, 1,2,3,4

The Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle is due off at 3.35 at Ascot on Saturday 23rd December and will be televised live on ITV4.