Darlan has moved to the brink of favouritism for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after a mightily impressive victory at Taunton to extend his unbeaten record to four races.
It is two Irish challengers that currently head the betting for the Cheltenham Festival opener, with Steps To Freedom and Waaheb both priced at 10/1.
But Darlan is now 12/1 after his Taunton success as Barry Geraghty hardly had to move a muscle as Nicky Henderson’s runner was a comfortable winner on the bridle.
The five-year-old was backed into odds-on before the off and showed this was justified by taking up the running at a canter before the final flight.
Despite winning all his four starts with relative ease, there may still be doubts as to whether Darlan is good enough to win at the Festival, given that he has not been trialled at anything better than class three level to date.
Meanwhile, he has seemingly produced his best results on flatter tracks and his one visit to Cheltenham led to a tense finale, when seeing off High Storm by a nose.
Furthermore, how much he will find off the bridle remains a mystery and he could become the next in a line of horses who approach the final hurdle swinging away, but then blow up.
Harchibald is perhaps the greatest example of this when finishing second to Hardy Eustace in the 2005 Champion Hurdle despite jumping the last on the bit.
The good news for Darlan is that the last two winners of the Supreme Novices have been English trained thanks to the successes of Menorah and Al Ferof, while horses to have triumphed on at least half of their hurdles starts and never been out of the each-way places have a fine record.