Decorated Knight swoops late to pull off giant shock under Atzeni
Decorated Knight stormed to Irish Champion Stakes glory, coming from the back of the field under Andrea Atzeni to score by half a length from fellow British raider Poet’s Word in a race in which odds-on favourite Churchill finished a disappointing seventh.
A 25-1 shot, Decorated Knight was scoring at Group 1 level for the third time and for the second time in Ireland this year following his victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May.
Winning trainer Roger Charlton said: “Ireland has been great for me. We've had a wonderful strike-rate in Group 1s, put it that way. We'd better keep coming back.
“I can't believe it. I didn't come here thinking we were going to win a race like that. We rode for luck. We dropped in and felt they'd go very quick, and his finish down the outside was amazing, absolutely amazing."
He continued: "He is a mile-and-a-quarter horse so the Champion Stakes at Ascot would have to be on the agenda. But let's enjoy this and wait and see.
“We were second here with Al Kazeem but I didn't think we had a winning chance today, but there you go. That's racing."
Of the excellent winning ride – which prompted Jamie Spencer to tweet, 'Atzeni, probably the most naturally gifted rider born to ride a horse, lovely to watch' – Charlton said: “Andrea is very good. He is very confident and he rides a lot of good horses, which helps. I thought he gave the horse a wonderful ride.
“He said he had them covered. He said the horse was very relaxed and had an amazing turn of foot, quickening right to the line.
“There was nothing flukey about it. He has been a bit unlucky in his last couple of races.
"He hated the ground at York, which I couldn't blame him for. He got bashed about at Sandown in the Eclipse, and he ran very well at Royal Ascot.
"He's tough. He was on the go in April and March, so to keep going all season is a tribute to the horse.
"I was half-thinking it might be his last race but we'll have to look at the Champion Stakes at Ascot.”
Atzeni, who was landing his third Group 1 in Ireland this season, said: “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 we picked them all up.
"I've been lucky to ride some good horses in my career but this is one of my special days. I didn't expect to win, so I went out there with no pressure.
"We knew there'd be a lot of pace in the race so I put him to sleep and rode him to finish well, which he did. He's produced the goods.”
James Doyle, rider of runner-up Poet's Word, said: “I’m delighted with him. He settled really nice and I got a nice tow into the race. He picked up really well and I thought we were going to get there, but Andrea got a nice lead off us and just pipped us late on.
"He has a massive future and it was a good run. Sir Michael [Stoute] doesn't get it wrong, does he? He thought he was a superstar and chucked him in here. He was quite confident beforehand and he nearly did it."
Frankie Dettori, who was bidding for a seventh win in the race finished third on Eminent, who made most of the running and ensured the three British-trained runners filled the first three places.
Eminent was a length and three-quarters behind Poet’s Word and Dettori said: “Eminent has run a superb race. When I got to the furlong pole and I was still in front, I said to myself, 'Aye, aye, this is looking good', and he was still galloping for me.
“I was just beaten by two very good horses in the end. He's had a hard season. He started off in the Craven and then the Guineas. I couldn't fault him at all. He gave me a lovely feel."
Moonlight Magic fared best of the home team in finishing fourth, while Aidan O’Brien, whose Taj Mahal finished fifth, one place in front of stablemate Cliffs Of Moher, admitted to being disappointed at how the race panned out for his runners.
He said: “It was a bit messy and things just didn’t work out for Churchill and Cliffs Of Moher. They didn’t get clear runs in the straight."
All the talk pre-race was of Churchill bouncing back to winning ways but that is now three defeats on the bounce and he has gone winless since completing the Guineas double at the Curragh in May.
While last season's champion juvenile appeared again to run below expectations, Decorated Knight proved those too backward to dazzle at two, or during the Classics, can still have their day in the sun.
When he was Churchill's age he had a maiden win and a handicap off a mark of 85 to his name. Two years later he has added one of Europe's premier middle-distance races to his Meydan and Tattersalls Gold Cup successes.