Lord North could be the value call in what is a mouthwatering renewal of the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
The most likely winner of the 2000m showpiece is defending champion Magical, who has enjoyed another excellent campaign, and there was no fluke about her defeat of Ghaiyyath when landing her second Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month.
However, the brilliant mare’s odds are skinny enough in such a competitive event – and the temptation is to look elsewhere.
Lord North actually appears the second string of two runners for John Gosden, with Frankie Dettori partnering French Derby winner Mishriff.
However, people can have short memories in racing, and it was only four months ago that Lord North produced a scintillating display to land the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting over the course and distance.
The five-year-old has run just once since, finishing a creditable third behind Ghaiyyath and Magical in the Juddmonte International at York in August.
Lord North has little over a length to find with the latter on that form – and returning to a track where we know he excels, it is not difficult to imagine him turning the tables under James Doyle.
Gosden also has excellent claims of landing the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with the hitherto unbeaten Palace Pier – but at odds-on, he makes little appeal from a betting perspective.
A more attractive proposition is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Circus Maximus, who is two from two at Ascot, having won the St James’s Palace Stakes on the round course and the Queen Anne over this straight 1600m.
The Galileo colt is versatile in terms of going – and while he has significant ground to make up on Palace Pier on their meeting in France earlier this season, the more demanding nature of Ascot should at least help him close the gap.
Stradivarius is likely to be a class apart from his rivals in the British Champions Long Distance Cup.
The triple Gold Cup hero is five from seven at Ascot overall, his two defeats coming in this race in 2017 and 12 months ago when beaten a length and a nose respectively.
It is obviously not ideal that he ran in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just a fortnight ago, finishing seventh, but he did not have to hard a time in a race that effectively turned into a sprint and he will be more at home back over 3200m on home soil.
Art Power is given another chance to prove his top-level capabilities in the Qipco British Champion Sprint.
Tim Easterby’s stable star looked every inch a Group One performer in the making when destroying his rivals in handicap company at Royal Ascot and in a Group Three in Ireland during the summer.
He was undoubtedly disappointing in the Nunthorpe at York, but fared better when fourth in the Sprint Cup at Haydock last month, where he actually looked a little outpaced late on.
Over a stiff 1200m on an easy surface this weekend, he could bounce back to his best.
Dame Malliot has every chance of providing Ed Vaughan with a fairytale ending to his training career in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
The four-year-old is right at home on soft ground, and the form of her latest effort when third in the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp looks excellent – with the winner Tarnawa following up on Arc weekend and the runner-up Raabihah finishing fifth in the Arc itself.
O’Brien’s recent Listed winner Keats appears on a workable mark in the concluding Balmoral Handicap. – Sportinglife.com