DarknessBred by the late Ann Jenkins, Darkness is relatively lightly-raced for a 10-year-old having faced the starter just 17 times. His career began in March, 2004, when he finished a promising third in a bumper at Newbury. The following season he registered victories in a bumper and novice hurdle at Plumpton and Towcester and also finished runner-up to subsequent Grade One scorer The Listener at Plumpton. His novice hurdle career ended with a run in the Grade One Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished a distant 18th behind No Refuge. For the 2005/06 season, Darkness was sent over fences and quickly regained the winning thread with victories at Uttoxeter, Newbury (where he easily accounted for the high-class Iris’s Gift), Cheltenham and Sandown, where he gained the biggest victory of his career to date in the Grade One Feltham Novices Chase on Boxing Day. He was then put away until the Cheltenham Festival in March, when he ran well to finish third in the RSA Chase behind Star De Mohaison. A disappointing effort followed next time out, when he was pulled up in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. Injury kept Darkness off the track for the next two seasons and he made his first appearance for two and a half years at Haydock in November, 2008, when he finished a decent third behind Possol. He failed to build on that promise next time out when pulled up in the Welsh National before returning to form with a win in a veterans handicap chase at Newbury on February 28.
Race Record: Starts: 17; Wins: 8; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 3; Win and Place prize money: £124,977
Born Madeleine Gurdon, Lady Lloyd-Webber was a top-level three-day event rider and show jumper, though nowadays her equine interests are largely confined to the owning and breeding spheres. In February, 1991, she became the third wife of the hugely successful theatrical impresario Lord (Andrew) Lloyd-Webber, whose many West End dramatic triumphs have included Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Starlight Express and Cats, and played a major role in setting up their Watership Down Stud near Newbury in 1992. That venture, which has expanded to include the Kiltinan Castle Stud in Ireland, has been a great success - it has led to their support for the Watership Down Stud Stakes for two-year-olds at Ascot - and they have made major headlines at the sales. One of the yearlings they sold at Newmarket made a European record price of 3.4 million guineas. The Sadler’s Wells colt, raced in Europe under the name of Diaghilev and was successful in Group Three company before being sold to Hong Hong where he won the Group One QE II Cup under the name River Dancer. The best horses to have raced for them have included the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile winner Crystal Music on the Flat and the talented and versatile Bacchanal, who showed top level form over hurdles and fences.
Grand National Record (Since 1980): 1994 Black Humour (Fell 15th), 2003 Killusty (Fell 22nd)
Born on September 25, 1963, the Old Etonian Egerton (who answers to Charles or 'Edgie' but not Charlie), has been training since 1991 after gaining worldwide experience with Nick Gaselee, Alec Stewart, Colin Hayes in Australia and the British Bloodstock Agency and comes from a background steeped in racing. His father Tom, who died in the autumn of 1998, was a member of the Jockey Club from 1966 and owned a number of useful horses on the Flat and jumping like Sherry Netherland, Foothill and Broken Rail. In 1951 he bought Heads Farm at Chaddleworth, near Newbury, where he bred many of his winners and where his son trains. Egerton operates a mixed Flat and jumping yard with his best successes having come with the jumpers. Among his best horses have been Shadow Leader, who won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in 1997, only to be killed in a final-flight fall in the Champion Hurdle the following season. He also trained Mysilv in her later racing days when she won four times, headed by the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury and ran twice in three days at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing sixth in the 1996 Champion Hurdle and then runner-up in the Stayers' Hurdle two days later. He also trained a smart staying hurdler in Seekin Cash, won a second Tote Gold Trophy with Decoupage in 1999 and did well with that horse over fences the following season in spite of his team having at one time been under the weather. Decoupage won twice over fences and was third in the 2000 Irish Independent Arkle Chase at Cheltenham while Teeatral won the 2001 Agfa Hurdle at Sandown in February. A superb training performance saw Egerton send out Mely Moss to finish second in the 2000 Grand National on that horse’s seasonal debut. Egerton is known as a man of broad girth, although much of it disappeared when he competed in the London Marathon on three occasions. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2000 Mely Moss (2nd); 2001 Mely Moss (BD 8th), 2002 Mely Moss (11th), 2003 Killusty (Fell 22nd), 2007 Gallant Approach (12th), Graphic Approach (Fell 22nd).