Charlton hoping to get one on the board at last with Decorated Knight
Roger Charlton hopes that a long campaign has not caught up with Decorated Knight and that one of the season's somewhat unsung heroes can sign off in style in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar.
Charlton is by no means a Breeders' Cup regular, and Decorated Knight will be only his third runner since his 1990 Derby winner Quest For Fame was third in the following year's Breeders' Cup Turf.
He does not underestimate the task his triple Group 1 winner faces against old rivals Highland Reel and Ulysses over an unfamiliar distance, but is optimistic regarding stamina and believes the five-year-old might have one crucial advantage.
Charlton said on Sunday: "He had the option to run in either the Turf or Mile following his win in the Irish Champion Stakes, which is a 'win and you are in' race, and although we leaned towards the Mile initially the more I thought about it the more I came round to the Turf.
"I've huge respect for Ulysses and Highland Reel, but we did get within a length and a quarter of Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales's and although I don't know what the ideal preparation is for a Breeders' Cup it could be to his advantage that, since Leopardstown, he's had a seven-week break without a tough race on soft or heavy ground."
Explaining the thinking behind choosing the 1m4f Turf for Decorated Knight, whose Group 1 wins at Meydan, the Curragh and Leopardstown have all been at ten furlongs or shorter, Charlton said: "We've spent a long time getting him to relax, and although we don't know he stays 12 furlongs he finished off Leopardstown pretty well and most Galileos do get it, as we were reminded by Hydrangea at Ascot last weekend.
"I've never been to Del Mar, but I understand there's only a short straight and you sprint off the turn, so we'd have had to change his training routine to have him handy for the Mile. If we then decided to go 12 furlongs we'd have undone all the good we'd done, and although the Turf is the stronger race it was the logical choice."
Success at Del Mar would crown a superb season for Decorated Knight and also for his trainer, who is enjoying a best ever year in terms of prize-money and winners - even without the £1 million-plus his stable star has earned abroad already this year.
Charlton said: "Decorated Knight has never quite captured the headlines for some reason but not many have done what he's done this year.
"He's been on the go since February and kept on improving nearly every time, disappointing only on soft ground in Dubai and in the Juddmonte International, when in hindsight we probably shouldn't have run. He's a quick ground horse and, like most Galileos, very tough, consistent and sound.
"He's had a long journey and needs to put weight back on, but he's a good traveller, and although Andrea [Atzeni] has never ridden at Del Mar, he's a world-class jockey."
He added: "I think I've only run Dundonnell [fourth in 2012 Juvenile Turf] and Time Test (in rear in 2015 Mile] since Quest For Fame was third there. It's about time I got one on the board. I'm letting the side down a bit!"
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