Tony McCoy feels Darlan has to go close in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day to warrant a place in the Champion Hurdle itself.
"The ground will probably be soft enough for him, but it's the time of year when he needs to get out - hopefully he can make up into a good horse," said McCoy.
"He's a narrow-framed sort of horse and hopefully he will improve with time. He's got to step up a lot to be a champion hurdler, and as yet he's got a lot to prove.
"We're working with the hope he is going to be a good horse, but in terms of ratings if he were to run in a handicap against the likes of Zarkandar or Rock On Ruby he'd be getting plenty of weight off them.
"At the same time, the Christmas Hurdle is the right race for him if he is going to make up into a Champion Hurdle horse. He needs to be performing pretty well, even if the ground is not in his favour."
Trainer Nicky Henderson has seen a physical improvement in Darlan since last season.
"We didn't run him in very soft ground at Cheltenham, but everything has gone fine and he went to Kempton for a racecourse gallop and worked well with Riverside Theatre," he said.
"He's in great form and it's going to be a fascinating race. We've kept him over hurdles and he's a mighty strong horse now. Physically he's much stronger than last year. There was a temptation to go chasing but we are going to take the hurdle route."