Richards eyes top Scottish races for unbeaten Soft Risk

The six-year-old has emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the north this season having eased to four victories, including when a wide-margin winner at Kelso on Sunday, and Richards is relishing stepping him into Graded company for the rest of the campaign.

The Cumbria trainer, who last scored Grade 1 glory with Simply Ned in 2018, guided Monet's Garden – one of jump racing's most beloved performers – to win three Grade 1s and he hopes Soft Risk can take him back to the top level.

Richards said: "Monet's Garden was a very good horse from the very first day he walked on a racetrack and this horse is very similar, whereas Simply Ned was an okay handicap hurdler in the north but as soon as he went chasing he was a revelation. You never know what can happen in this game!

"I've got a bunch of nice horses similar to him as well and we don't have that real flagbearer at the moment, but he's a lovely horse to have. People are starting to talk about him more and let's hope he can carry us a long way."

A return to Kelso is on the cards for Soft Risk in the Grade 2 Premier Hurdle – a race his owner James Westoll won with Glingerburn in 2015 – on March 5 before a possible tilt at the Scottish Champion Hurdle in April, with a trip to the Cheltenham Festival ruled out.

"Off the top of my head I would've thought the Premier Hurdle will be on the agenda for his next run, but he'll need the ground in his favour," he added. "It was very dead on Sunday and not many horses like that, but he went through it.

"We've sort of half-thought about the Scottish Champion Hurdle too, they'll be the two races if things go to plan and it'll be interesting to see what handicap mark he gets. He's a very exciting horse and hopefully there's a lot to look forward to."