Since seeming within touching distance of greatness, this time last year, Camelot has found himself relegated to a supporting role in the human melodramas that have claimed the headlines instead. His historic Triple Crown challenge, for instance, was foiled last September by a horse whose reputation has since been contaminated by his disgraced trainer's administration of anabolic steroids. In his next start, meanwhile, Camelot seduced Frankie Dettori into sealing the end of his long partnership with Sheikh Mohammed, by riding in the Arc for his patron's great rivals at Coolmore.
The time has come now for Camelot himself to show whether or not he can retrieve centre stage, and all the lustre previously obtained in three consecutive Classic wins. In hindsight, he seems to have been the best of a fairly ordinary generation, and arrives at Ascot for a rematch with the horse who turned him over at odds-on in a four-runner race at the Curragh last month. The Prince of Wales's Stakes is likely to be run at a rather more earnest tempo, but that is just as likely to suit Al Kazeem. From the punter's point of view, moreover, Camelot's residual glamour means that both horses are arguably now too short in the betting.
Maxios warrants respect, the French having a fine record in this race with similar types, and this one has taken his form to a new level with maturity. And it would be gratifying to see Red Cadeaux crown his achievements abroad with a big win on home soil, not least with the freelance Dettori seeking to put down fresh roots. But the concession of 3lb to The Fugue (3.45) could prove beyond them all.
Though beaten in four out of five Group One starts last year, she was repeatedly unlucky – she should really have won both the Oaks and the Filly and Mare Turf at the Breeders' Cup – while also leaving the impression that this kind of intermediate trip suits her best. She has a fine record when fresh, running fourth in the 1,000 Guineas first time out last year and again excelling after a lay-off at Santa Anita, and is primed by one of the modern Ascot masters in John Gosden. Lightly raced, she is entitled to return as a stronger specimen at four and her turn of foot could be decisive on the fast going that suits her so well.
Garswood gets the chance to atone for his 2,000 Guineas disappointment in the opening Jersey Stakes, and should at least appreciate the drop in trip. But the Yorkshire colt faces stiff opposition from overseas – the Irish through Gale Force Ten, and the French with one that could be underestimated at the odds in The Brothers War (2.30). This well-bred colt has shown good speed in decent company in his homeland and looks the type to relish a big field and strong pace on faster going.
Another raider eligible to export a big prize over the Channel is Sarkiyla (3.05). Neither of her races against colts this year has panned out ideally, but she finished off with more to offer in both cases and can confirm herself an improved filly back against her own sex.
The Royal Hunt Cup is as bewildering as ever, even before an unpredictable draw advantage is taken into account. Two For Two and Fury head the shortlist of those drawn high, the former still improving for his new trainer and the latter now in blinkers and a big field, but Stirring Ballad (4.25) gets the nod on the other side of the track. She remains unexposed, above all at this trip, and looks the type to pounce late off a hectic gallop under Richard Hughes.
Beldale Memory (5.00) has made an impressive start to her career and looks as solid as they come in a Queen Mary Stakes as full of unexposed improvers as you would expect.
The last of three races confined to fillies, meanwhile, can go to Bracing Breeze (5.35). The Irish raider takes a top-class pedigree into new territory after shaping well in a sprint finish, over a shorter trip in soft ground, on what was only her third career start.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Bracing Breeze (5.35 Ascot)
Stirring Ballad (4.25 Ascot)