Once Christmas has calmed down, it’s fair to conclude there is not much on in the British calendar at this time of year.
With the jumps finals looming in March, many trainers seek to wrap their most high-profile individuals in bubble wrap to avoid any sort of mishap which may deflect them from running at the most prestigious event in the sport – the Cheltenham Festival.
However, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury mid-February is one of the most fiercely competitive handicaps around, and provides a great chance for any novices looking to make a big statement against the big guns ahead of the best week of racing in a month’s time.
Last year, Kalashnikov handled the tough conditions the best and drew clear to land this valuable contest, before going on to finish second in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham.
This race can play a good indicator in terms of who the leading novices are heading to Prestbury Park for the likes of the Supreme, the Ballymore, or perhaps those preparing a rare surge up in distance for the Albert Bartlett.
Other notable winners from recent years are Ballyandy in 2017, Agrapart a year before that, and My Tent Or Yours in 2013.
Fifty-five names currently remain in the hat with a month today until the flag will be dropped.
Instead of covering every single entry, let’s look at the leading contenders: