While last week saw the principles for the big races in the next 12 months stretch their legs, this weekend was more about those that could be seen as dark horses for those Group 1 prizes.
And with seven of those top-level prizes on offer, competition at Longchamp on Arc weekend will be fierce.
It’s the first of those Group 1s on the big-day itself that Roger Varian’s Steps enhanced his chances in on Saturday.
Having won the Ladbrokes Portland at Doncaster just a week ago, the likeable grey stepped it up a notch to land the Group 3 Dubai World Trophy at Newbury, flashing home late to take the prize.
A trip to Paris for a crack at the Prix de l’Abbaye looks on the agenda next, with the seven-year-old going from a 50/1 shot to a lively outsider at 20/1 in the five furlong contest.
Speaking on his official website, his handler spoke of how the likely conditions could play to his strengths on the continents.
“We know when it falls right, Steps is a smart sprinter and it was great that he has achieved a first Group win,” he said.
“If the ground came up very soft [at Longchamp] it can suit a closer and he deserves a crack at it.”
Eagle not on Top in Arc Trial
While Varian’s horse was enhancing his claims for success in the French capital, Eagle Top did his chances in the feature no favours at all, and in turn poured scorn on another challengers credentials.
Sent off 8/11 favourite for the Arc Trial at Newbury, John Gosden’s horse was unable to quicken well enough in the latter stages and found himself a couple of lengths adrift from The Corsican at the finish.
Ladbrokes were unimpressed with his performance and shoved him out to 25/1 from 12/1 for the Arc on October 4.
In folding so tamely, he failed to enhance the form of the King George at Ascot in which he was beaten just a nose by Postponed.
Whether that is a blow to the 20/1 chance and subsequent Prix Foy winner remains to be seen.
Guineas hope Ribchester off the mark
It seemed absurd that a maiden could win the Mill Reef Stakes, but having gone down fighting to Ajaya in the Gimcrack on just his second start, Ribchester was a well-fancied 13/8 jolly on Saturday.
Purchased by Godolphin prior to the contest Richard Fahey’s colt still looked green and hinted that there was plenty more to come despite running out an impressive winner.
Added to Ladbrokes’ 2,000 Guineas market as a 20/1 shot, the son of Iffraaj looks a real contender to be challenging for the Classics next season.
His trainer certainly thinks so, stating “If I’ve got a Guineas horse, it’s him”.
There may be a long way to go, but next season’s HQ showpiece is shaping up to be a really open affair.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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