Last year’s Cambridgeshire winner Lord North proved his progression has not stopped yet by winning the Betway Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock.
John Gosden’s gelding went through the ranks at a rate of knots last season and finished his campaign with a Listed success at Newmarket.
He was in at the deep end for this rearranged Group Three though, up against the 120-rated Elarqam, Royal Ascot winner Sangarius and Dante scorer Telecaster.
When Robert Havlin booted him into a clear advantage a furlong out, the race looked to be over as a contest as he scooted away from Elarqam and Telecaster.
However, inside the final 100 yards Lord North (4-1) was running on empty and to Elarqam’s credit he began to close up again but the line came just too soon for Mark Johnston’s consistent runner, going down by a short head.
Hughie Morrison will have been pleased with Telecaster’s return, not far away in third, but Sangarius was slightly disappointing in fourth.
“He travelled very well into the race and when Rab asked him he picked up smartly. That looked a very strong race so it was pleasing he could win it first time out,” said Gosden’s son and assistant, Thady.
“He’s beaten the right horse, Elarqam is rated 120 so he is a proper Group One horse. He was coming right back at him at the finish, but our horse will probably benefit from the run. He needed it, but he should progress for it.
“He likes a bit of juice in the ground. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and go from there. I’d be surprised if he stayed any further than 10 furlongs.”
Referencing Saturday’s impressive Newcastle winner Palace Pier, who features prominently in the betting for the Derby, Gosden appeared to rule out the Classic.
“We don’t see him as a Derby horse at all, I’m not sure where that came from, it’s the same with the horse who was beaten yesterday, Waldkonig, they are both by Kingman,” said Gosden jnr.
“I think Palace Pier will be a miler. One day he could be a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but at the moment definitely a mile.”
Havlin said of Lord North: “He travelled real well, he’s a big horse, hard to get fit.
“He’s been ticking away and we’ve been doing as much as we could with him.
“At the back end of last year he was on a real upward curve and it looks as if he’s still on that curve.”
The winner was given a 12-1 quote by Coral for the Eclipse.
Speaking from Newmarket, Gosden snr said: “The old boy just got tired in the last furlong, but he just held which was good to see.
“We have got to look at the good mile-and-a-quarter races for him as he has now won a Listed race and a Group Three.
“Do you go more sensible and for a Group Two as taking on Ghaiyyath is going to be quite heartbreaking for some horses. We might enter him (at Ascot) and have a look around the place, but there is no major plan yet. You are coming back awfully quick for Royal Ascot so they have to take their races well.
“Everything is so concertinaed so we will just see how he is. It is the same with all the ones I’m running, they all need their races and even he did. He likes to get his toe in so that ground helped him.”