Disparagement of the Classic class of 2012 gained new intensity after the defeat of its one outstanding colt at Doncaster on Saturday, and there will be corresponding interest in the older horse who yesterday advertised his eligibility to end Japan's quest for a first success in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
True, Orfevre was solid rather than spectacular in his rehearsal over course and distance, in the Qatar Prix Foy, but he showed a good deal more than did his compatriot, Nakayama Festa, in the equivalent race two years ago – and that horse proceeded to run Workforce to a head in the Arc itself.
As is so often the case on the trials card at Longchamp, even Orfevre's pacemaker could not prompt a small field into a properly searching tempo. But Christophe Soumillon was able to slip him past his escort in the straight before comfortably holding Meandre a length at bay. "In two strides I got exactly what you need from an Arc horse," Soumillon promised. "The pace was a bit slow, and he was a bit fresh. Hopefully, he can improve a bit, as he needs to – but the trainer [Yasutoshi Ikee] has done a perfect job so far."
In the Prix Niel, for three-year-olds, Saonois intimated that he could yet redeem his contemporaries by extricating himself from a tight pocket with a striking turn of foot. Damned with faint praise after his shock success in a rough race for the Prix du Jockey Club, and unraced since, Saonois was making his first start at a mile and a half but continued his giddy rise under a cool ride from his young jockey, Antoine Hamelin. Jean-Pierre Gauvin, who trains in a relative backwater near Lyons, confirmed that Saonois will be supplemented for the Arc at a cost of €100,000 (£81,000).
The most earnest of the Arc preps is the Prix Vermeille, as a Group One in its own right, and Shareta followed up her win at York in decisive fashion. Second in the Arc last year, she will attempt to go one better unless the going proves very testing.
The other Group One on the card, the Prix du Moulin, mysteriously drew just four milers from a division persecuted by Frankel over the past two years. Frankie Dettori controlled the pace on Farhh but was obliged to settle for second for the fourth time running after Moonlight Cloud just got the better of a duel through the final furlong. Freddie Head will now prepare the winner for the Breeders' Cup, while Farhh will head to Qipco Champions' Day at Ascot. Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, felt he had just been found out by the return to a mile in the conditions. He also confirmed that Encke, author of Camelot's first defeat the previous day, would not run again this season, with the Dubai Sheema Classic a possible early target next year.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe betting (Coral) 4-1 Orfevre, 9-2 Danedream, 5-1 Nathaniel, 7-1 Snow Fairy, 10-1 Saonois, Shareta, 12-1 Meandre, 14-1 others.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Malekat Jamal (4.50 Brighton)
Least exposed in the field and hinted at more ability than a modest rating allows when moving smoothly through for fourth in only her second handicap last time.
Next best: Kay Gee Bee (4.40 Musselburgh)
Useful operator in claimers and again looks favourably treated at the weights.
One to watch: Red Avenger (Ed Dunlop) has been set a fair mark judged on the way he finished from well off a steady pace to force a photo in a nursery at Doncaster on Wednesday.
Where the money's going: Dawn Approach is 7-1 from 10-1 for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas after extending his unbeaten record in impressive fashion at the Curragh on Saturday.