Southern France (far side) could drop down in trip at Ascot (Richard Sellers/PA)Southern France could be rerouted from the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot to the shorter Hardwicke Stakes next month.

Aidan O'Brien was pleasantly surprised with how much pace the four-year-old showed when beaten just three-quarters of a length by Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup on Friday.

“Southern France ran well in York and he’s going to step up again from that run,” said the Ballydoyle handler.

“He could come back in trip for something like the Hardwicke. The Gold Cup was the plan, but he has more pace than we thought.

“He’ll be trained for Ascot, but has a choice of races.”

Others among the staying division for O’Brien include 2017 Irish Derby winner Capri, who has yet to hit form this season.

Western Australia won at Navan on Saturday and he could go to Ascot for the Queen’s Vase, and the plan is still for Capri to go for the Gold Cup,” said O’Brien.

“Capri is a bit older and is just taking a little bit of time to get fit. We needed to get those two runs into him and he’ll be trained now for the Gold Cup.”