A Dante Stakes that promised to offer some clarity on the Derby picture served only to confuse it further as a second string not even entered for Epsom prevailed and Aidan O'Brien's two runners capitulated.
John F Kennedy and Ol' Man River have now been ruled out of the premier Classic by the Ballydoyle wizard after trailing in listlessly behind John Gosden's Golden Horn. Gosden's Jack Hobbs had started the day as the ante-post market leader for the Derby and was sent off 2/1 favourite for the York Group Two under Frankie Dettori.
However, Jack Hobbs' William Buick-ridden stablemate Golden Horn (4/1) came through from the rear to thwart him with some authority.
Elm Park, which had raced quite keenly, kept on for third after leading three furlongs out on his reappearance.
Golden Horn is now unbeaten in three, and Gosden indicated that he wouldn't be averse to sending the Cape Cross colt to Epsom, but it would be left up to owner Andrew Oppenheimer to decide if he wants to pay the £75,000 supplementary fee, rather than tackle the 10-furlong French Derby.
"Golden Horn is a well-balanced horse and he's neat, whereas Jack Hobbs is a big, rangy boy - they are different types," Gosden explained.
"I can see the logic in supplementing him, but it's not my money. It's very much up to Mr Oppenheimer. He's been very firm with me that he's a mile-and-a-quarter horse and he told me that all along, so we will see."
Bookmaker Paddy Power now make Golden Horn their 6/4 Derby favourite, while he is as big as 3/1 with a run elsewhere. Dermot Weld's Zawraq was again trimmed without leaving his stable to as low as 4/1 second favourite.
As of now, O'Brien's quest for a fourth Derby in a row is in disarray.
He admitted that some of the Ballydoyle team clearly weren't right, but dismissed any suggestion of rerouting the 2,000 Guineas hero Gleneagles from the Irish Guineas. Giovanni Canaletto is now the lowest-priced of O'Brien's possible Derby starters at 10/1 despite having not yet graced the racecourse this year. Trial winners Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro follow at fancy prices, along with the French 2,000 Guineas sixth Highland Reel.
Today, Buick has been secured by up-and-coming Co Kildare handler Adrian Keatley for juvenile Athas An Bhean in the five-furlong Listed opener on the Knavesmire. The 1,500-guinea purchase skated up in the mud on her Cork debut, so any softening of the ground here would aid her cause.