Just three fillies are quoted at less than 16-1 for the 1,000 Guineas next spring, but anyone who takes a late lunch and stops off at a betting shop today may discover that the list has shrunk to one.
At the unusually early time of 2.00 today, all three - Cape Verdi, Shmoose and Embassy - will set off for the Cheveley Park Stakes, over the last six furlongs of the Newmarket course which will stage the Classic next year. The winner, unless injury intervenes, will probably be undisputed Guineas favourite for the next six months.
There are five other runners in today's Group One event, but you would hardly know it from studying this morning's odds, which imply that it is roughly a 1-9 chance that a member of this trio will win.
Great things are expected of these fillies, not least Cape Verdi, who has been touted as a leader of her generation almost from the moment she first set foot on Peter Chapple-Hyam's gallops. So impressive was her form in the first weeks of the season that Robert Sangster, her owner, confidently nominated Cape Verdi as his banker bet for Royal Ascot, where she contested the Chesham Stakes, usually that meeting's weakest two-year- old event.
Inevitably, she started favourite. Almost as predictably, since it is the fate of most bankers, she was beaten, and the fact that defeat came at the hands of Central Park, now recognised as one of the year's best juvenile colts, was little consolation to either Sangster or the punters who took his tip.
Cape Verdi's reputation was redeemed somewhat at York last month, when she got up to beat Embassy in the final stride of the Lowther Stakes, although many spectators felt that Pat Eddery, riding Embassy, eased down slightly a few yards from the line and handed victory to his opponent.
Kieren Fallon replaces the injured Eddery today, so it is fair to assume that Embassy will be ridden out to the post if she has the slightest chance of winning, and she also meets Cape Verdi on 3lb better terms.
Since Shmoose could hardly be taking a larger step up in class, from maiden company straight into Group One, it could pay to side with Embassy (2.00), although this is the sort of race to provide valuable information rather than an instant cash profit.
In fact, from the betting person's point of view, there is little to get excited about at Headquarters today, since Tamarisk and Headhunter are the only real contenders for the Houghton Stakes, and the televised nursery which opens the card is typically competitive. Fayrana (12.50) may offer a glimmer of value after two slightly unfortunate runs, but punters may cast an eye instead on the 45 remaining runners for Saturday's Cambridgeshire Handicap. Russian Music will be the top weight, with either Kieren Fallon or Jason Wilkinson, a 7lb claimer, in his saddle, at the head of a field which could well run to its maximum of 40.
Given Fallon's current form, Russian Music might well be better off with the Irishman and the extra 7lb. The champion-elect rode another four winners yesterday, while Frankie Dettori, his only rival for the title, managed only one at Bath. There was also good news for Fallon from Hong Kong, where the authorities approved his application for a licence to ride in January.
The chance that the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will have its first dual winner for 19 years appears to be increasing, with the news that Helissio, who beat Pilsudski by five lengths 12 months ago, worked well at home yesterday. "He is as good as last year," was the ominous message from a spokeswoman for his trainer, Elie Lellouche.