Middleham Park hurdlers Red Risk and Marie’s Rock are likely to cross paths in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury next month.
Both horses run in the silks of the ownership group, and Marie’s Rock has won at the highest level for connections, taking both the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last year.
The Nicky Henderson-trained mare was second to Sire Du Berlais in the Liverpool Hurdle on her final start last season and will reappear for the new campaign over the staying trip.
There she will encounter Paul Nicholls’ Red Risk, an eight-year-old who has been moving out of handicap company in recent starts and made a promising start to the season when second in the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting.
Tom Palin of Middleham Park said of the two horses: “I think they’re going to do battle, they’ll be taking each other on at Newbury in the three-mile Grade Two there (December 1).
“That’s been Marie’s Rock’s target for a while, that was the logical starting point for her.
“Red Risk ran a cracker at Wetherby, I thought we were going to go past the other horse but he really toughed it out as well. We were delighted with the run.
“He does go very well fresh, we’ll run at Newbury but the one question we have is whether it’s a bit too soon after Wetherby.
“Then we’d just look at giving him a bit of a freshen-up going into something ahead of the spring, maybe a Cleeve Hurdle or something akin to that.
“They’ll probably end up taking each other on at Newbury in that Grade Two and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.”
Marie’s Rock will proceed from Wetherby in the direction of the top staying contests, with the big festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree pencilled in for the spring.
“She’s obviously got that useful weight allowance and I think she has a pull as it is on official ratings but that performance [by Red Risk] the other day was a very, very good performance,” Palin said.
“We’ve just got Red Risk figured out and Marie’s Rock is in great form. Her campaign kind of plans itself; Newbury, Ascot, Cheltenham for the Cleeve, Cheltenham for the Stayers’ and Aintree again.”