Irish Champion: Charlton "shellshocked" after Decorated Knight leads home British one-two-three at Leopardstown

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 9 Sep 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

Roger Charlton was "shellshocked" after Decorated Knight led home a British one-two-three in a thrilling QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday.

The five-year-old chestnut benefitted from a patient Andrea Atzeni ride when coming fast and late to trigger a 25-1 upset in the feature event of the Longines-backed weekend.

Charlton’s charge, winning at the highest level for the third time this season, sailed past fellow Newmarket representative Poet’s Word and James Doyle to win by half a length. Eminent and Frankie Dettori faded from their pacemaking position to hold on to third.

Decorated Knight had not won since defeating Somehow in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May, having struck for the first time at Group One level in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan in March.

With fiery Eminent proving a real handful on the front end for Dettori, and Churchill hemmed in under Ryan Moore on the inner, Decorated Knight profited from a pace collapse having been last turning in to the Leopardstown straight.

“I’m a little bit shell-shocked,” Charlton admitted. “Andrea said he knew he was going to win turning in. Decorated Knight produced an amazing turn of foot and went right to the line. There was nothing flukey about it.

Decorated Knight - Andrea Atzeni - Leopardstown - Racingfotos Andrea Atzeni celebrated by punching the air following his first win in the Irish Champion Stakes. (Racingfotos)

“He has been a bit unlucky in his last couple of races. He hated the ground at York, which I can’t blame him for and he got bashed about in the Eclipse.

“He has improved and improved, he is tough, and has been on the go since March. To keep going for the whole season is a tribute to the horse.”

Decorated Knight will now head for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 21, for which he is a best-priced 16-1 with Bet365. Churchill, who finished seventh, is 8-1 behind 7-1 favourite Barney Roy.

“I was half thinking this might be his last race,” Charlton added. “I guess we look at the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

"Ireland has been very lucky for me with three Tattersalls Gold Cups, a Pretty Polly and now this.

“He likes Ireland and I like Ireland too. I can’t believe it.”

Atzeni had never won the 10-furlong event but was ice cool in holding up his mount from their widest draw in stall ten.

Dettori was battling up front with Eminent, who refused to settle properly during the early stages, and the pair established a three length lead over Success Days. Churchill, who was the well-backed 8-11 favourite, was close in behind.

Turning for home Decorated Knight and Poet’s Word were still the back markers, while Moore was suffering greatly on the inside rail after a tiring Success Days veered across his path. Moore was then stuck behind his stable companion Cliffs Of Moher, and was further put in a pocket by Godolphin’s Moonlight Magic, who was the first Irish-trained horse home in fourth.

Eminent and Dettori still led until the final furlong but Decorated Knight and Poet’s Word were in fifth gear down the centre of the track and there was nothing with enough in the tank to repel them.

"I still can't believe he's won it," Atzeni said. "We were coming in here with no pressure, as he was beaten the last twice.

Longines Irish Champions Weekend - Day One - Leopardstown Racecourse Decorated Knight added to his Group One haul of the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Jebel Hatta on Saturday at Leopardstown (PA)

"Last time he didn't handle the soft ground and today he looked a different horse in the paddock. He relaxed really nicely and picked up like a very good horse. I expected him to pick up, but didn't think he would pick up that well to go and win the race.

"The plan was to give him a chance and ride him to run well and pick up the pieces. Luckily he picked up really well and picked them all up.

"I've being very lucky to ride some good horses in big races through my career and this is one of my special days.

"To be honest I didn't expect him to win today. I thought he might just run a big race. Maybe he was unlucky in the Eclipse when things didn't go right and the soft ground in the Juddmonte didn't suit.

"I just went out there with no pressure, left him alone for most of the race, pulled him out to see what he had left and he picked up well.

"That was always plan because we knew there was going to be a lot of pace in the race. He had a bad draw and we didn't want to be caught wide, so we gave him a chance and put him to sleep.

"He's shown how good he is today and he could go anywhere now. He's already won three Group Ones."

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