FIRST run in 2002, the Leamington Novices Hurdle (3.0 Warwick) is now over a decade old, but there's actually been just eight renewals of the Grade Two contest as poor weather conditions called a halt to proceedings in 2003, 2009, and 2010.
Those of us who write about horse racing get a bit of stick if we tip too many favourites – and so we should because any Joe Soap can open a newspaper and circle the jolly.
But from the small amount of data we have from this race so far, opposing the favourite here could be a costly exercise, with six of the last eight market leaders all going on to win.
I hope readers will forgive me, then, for siding with The New One at 5/4, which is one of the more exciting horses to come out of Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard of late.
Other than Inglis Drever, there are no real superstars in the list of previous winners, so I won't be getting over-excited about whichever horse goes on to win today – although it must be noted that bookmakers have seen some ante-post interest in The New One for the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and he now trades as low as 12/1 for that race.
He comes here with a decent enough CV and was one of last season's better bumper horses, with his only defeat in four of those races coming in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He made a winning start over timber when taking a decent novice hurdle at Newton Abbott on the first day of October and followed up that victory with another win later in the month at Cheltenham.
While he remained in control in both of those races, he didn't always jump fluently, which is a minor cause for concern, although I'm told that Twiston-Davies has been doing plenty of schooling to get his jumping right.
The one most likely to follow him home is Dursey Sound, which should go off around 9/4. He won a bumper at Galway for Charlie Swan before being sold to go hurdling across the water and he duly obliged with victory in his first two races over obstacles at Uttoxeter and Wetherby. He lost little in defeat to Easter Day in a novice hurdle at Ascot last time and he's one to stick in the notebook for the future.
For something priced a little higher, consider Dark Lane at Lingfield (1.25), priced around 7/1. The seven-year-old won a claimer at Kempton on Sunday, but the handicapper hasn't had a chance to reassess his mark yet, so he comes here with an automatic 6lb penalty.
Whether or not that is enough to hold him back remains to be seen, but connections have booked Philip Prince to ride and his 7lb claim as an apprentice might just be the difference between winning and losing.
BOTH Bear's Affair and Black Thunder should prove popular in the betting for this afternoon's Lanzarote Hurdle (2.40 Kempton) but, as the top two in the weights, they may find themselves struggling at the business end of the race.
Instead, a chance is taken on the Warren Greatrex trained Oscar Prairie, which trades at 16/1 and higher in the early markets. He was pulled up a number of times in some handicaps at the start of the season, but finally bounced back to form when runner-up at 66/1 at Wincanton last week.
11.45 Lingfield – Ajeeb
1.25 Lingfield – Dark Lane
1.50 Warwick – Highland Lodge
2.40 Kempton – Oscar Prairie (e/w)
3.00 Warwick – The New One