0.75pts each-way Air Horse One @12/1, 0.75pts each-way Veinard @14/1, 15:35 Ascot, Saturday

An extremely classy renewal of the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday afternoon.

The betting is led by progressive four-year-old Silver Streak, who couldn’t have looked any more impressive on his return in a handicap event in October. Evan Williams will expect further progressive now, but the softer conditions are definitely of concern for the gelding, who also has to shoulder another 8lbs. Those two factors combined with his current price provide enough to take him on.

The likes of Triumph Hurdle second Divin Bere and Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Chesterfield probably both want better ground and are high enough in the handicap despite possibly having further progress.

Silver Streak beat a horse called Dolos by 4l when receiving around 13lbs on his season reappearance and Dolos went on to finish 16l behind the re-opposing AIR HORSE ONE who was giving him 9lbs here back in November, and the County Hurdle fourth has been running solidly this season.

Air Horse One had an impressive campaign last year winning three from his seven starts including a win over this course on similar going conditions against Divine Spear (who won comfortably yesterday at Ascot).

Air Horse One opened his campaign with a fine 4/14 in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle when racing off top-weight. The first (Elgin), second (Limited Reserve), third (High Bridge), and fifth (Verdana Blue) have all won impressively since and Air Horse One is weighted to reverse the form with Elgin (5lbs better off) and hold it with Verdana Blue (3lbs better off).

Air Horce One’s last race was probably over a trip that stretched him, but he still performed with plenty of credit to finish third to the classy Old Guard, with Remiluc back in second – who has since finished second at Cheltenham.

The Harry Fry inmate could still possess further improvement and is sure to be thereabouts at the finish racing off these terms with conditions likely to suit him much better today.

A line through the High Bridge form brings the much-hyped Novice hurdler, Charli Parcs in to this, and I really liked the look of his opening run of the season behind a classy sort. I expect that run to have brought on the Nicky Henderson stable star, but with the ground definitely riding on the slow and tacky side it might be worthwhile taking a chance on Gordon Elliot’s Irish raider, VEINARD, who will have no such problems with the underfoot conditions.

The French bred Veinard is admittedly not the easiest to call right with a lacklustre record of 1-13 for his genius trainer. But he is a horse that the yard have clearly always felt could go and win a big handicap of this nature and with a record of 2-4 for Elliot in this in recent years having won it with Cause Of Causes (2012) and Bayan (2014), his entrant is worth taking note of.

Veinard has got some pretty useful handicap form without necessarily landing the spoils including a sixth in the Betfair Hurdle behind Ballyandy and a second in the Glascarn Grade A Handicap Hurdle behind Thomas Hobson last year. His form also includes him being just touched off a few times during the last twelve months or so and his handicap mark has remained pretty static as a result.

His handler is convinced he has the quality to take a big handicap race such as this and there’s no question that he travels like he can win one. This race should be no different with him carrying a featherweight of 10st 4lbs.

The bare form my not suggest this, but Veinard’s last run did look very encouraging when staying on strongly to finish a creditable 8/20, and he had the likes of Bleu Et Rouge – currently an 8/1 shot – behind him on that occasion.

He’s not a tip without risk given his racing style, but it would not be the biggest surprise if he can put it altogether today in the lucky last.

0.75pts each-way Air Horse One @12/1, 15:35 Ascot, Saturday (1,2,3,4 places, 1/4 odds with Ladbrokes)
0.75pts each-way Veinard @14/1, 15:35 Ascot, Saturday (1,2,3,4,5 places, 1/5 odds with Betfair)

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