Charles Egerton has confirmed leading Royal & Sun Alliance Chase fancy Darkness is well on course for Cheltenham on Wednesday.
After being put in his place by Monet’s Garden over an inadequate two miles, the seven-year-old has since chalked up victories at Newbury, Cheltenham and Sandown, accounting for some of the best staying novices around.
Darkness has still to be scratched for the meeting’s showpiece event, the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Egerton insists that is purely a back-up plan.
“He still holds an entry in the Gold Cup but the plan is to run him in the Sun Alliance,” the trainer told At The Races.
“We’ll just leave him in the Gold Cup in case anything happens.”
Some critics have claimed Darkness does not jump well enough to win a race as competitive as the Sun Alliance Chase, but Egerton believes his jumping is not as bad as some make out.
“I think he’s a small horse, which is why it might look as if he doesn’t jump that well.
“He is long in the back as well so he doesn’t really arch himself over a fence. It just makes him look awkward,” he explained.
“He has already won around Newbury, Cheltenham and Sandown, which are three of the most difficult tracks in the country over fences.
“I can see why people say he doesn’t jump well but it hasn’t affected him too badly, has it? He definitely didn’t enjoy it as much going right-handed at Sandown. He’s a different horse going left-handed.
“He tends to leave a bit up his sleeve when we work him at home and I haven’t tried to find out how good he is on the gallops. A bit like Mysilv. She showed nothing at home but she was top class.
“He has surprised us slightly how good he is on the course. I wouldn’t have thought he’d be rated as high as 154, which is what he is at the moment.”
Egerton also had news of his useful novice Graphic Approach, who failed to see out the trip in the Racing Post Trophy last time.
“I ran him in the wrong race at Sandown and I should have listened to Tony McCoy, who questioned whether he truly stayed three miles.
“He didn’t stay and it was very gluey so he’ll go for the Racing Post Plate (formerly Mildmay Of Flete) over two miles and five furlongs. He is very well.”