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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Four things we learned from the weekend's racing in Ireland and France

Decorated Knight showed he could handle some cut in the ground when flying home late to land the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday
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1 Decorated Knight far more than a fast-track wonder

Day one of Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown on Saturday rewarded those of an adventurous nature with Hydrangea and Decorated Knight emerging as unlikely winners of the card’s two Group 1s.

In the case of the Irish Champion Stakes, the reasons for Decorated Knight having underperformed since splitting Highland Reel and Ulysses – a torrid passage in the Eclipse and pulled muscles in the International Stakes – were all there in black and white.

But what has really opened up the choices for Roger Charlton ahead of Decorated Knight’s potential swansong was the way he picked up from the back of the field off a fast pace, on ground that his closest supporters might have feared was against him.

Whether he bows out on British Champions Day or in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, he now looks a much more versatile performer than previously looked to be the case.

2 Juvenile fillies' division waiting for a star to emerge

Nosing ahead: Happily and Donnacha O'Brien (right) edges out stablemate Magical (Ryan Moore) in the Moyglare
The Moyglare Stud Stakes has such a rich heritage in establishing the pecking order among the juvenile fillies, that Aidan O’Brien’s decision to throw so many darts at the board on Sunday should have given us plenty of evidence to weigh up.

But the untimely intervention of the Curragh rain, the withdrawal of Clemmie and the end result – with Happily reversing Debutante Stakes form with Magical and Royal Ascot winner September once again behind that pair in third – all added to the impression there is plenty of room at the top of the division when the action switches to the Rowley Mile and Chantilly over the next few weeks.

3 Foy could play a part in Arc picture despite Satono defeat

You don’t need to be an honours student in the recent history of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to know the Prix Foy has a dismal record in unearthing the big-race winner.

But given the strength in depth of the line-up in comparison to the field Cracksman beat earlier in the afternoon, this might well be a race that repays careful attention, even before you consider whether John Gosden will allow the Prix Niel winner to take his chance.

Dschingis Secret thrashed Hawkbill on his most recent start in Berlin and his jockey Adrie de Vries was in no doubt this was an improved performance from the son of Soldier Hollow. Granted soft ground he will certainly be a player in the Arc and is likely to remain overpriced.

Cloth Of Stars ran a very fine Arc trial behind Dschingis Secret in the Prix Foy on Sunday

The same may be true of Cloth Of Stars, who pulled ferociously throughout the first half of the race yet ran to the line in eyecatching fashion on what was his first start since May 1.

As for Satono Diamond, a change in the weather looks nigh-on essential if he is to be able to reproduce the very high-class form he consistently shows in Japan.

4 O’Meara’s Queen an eyecatcher with a view to the Abbaye

While Harry Angel grabbed hold of the race to be crowned champion sprinter at Haydock on Saturday, the division has been a happy hunting ground for fillies this season, with Marsha and Lady Aurelia showing the way in a pulsating Nunthorpe last month.

Fashion Queen (left) winning at York in May

Lady Macapa landed the Prix du Petit Couvert at Chantilly on Sunday to add to the distaff haul but it was the performance of the David O’Meara-trained Fashion Queen half a length back in third that really caught the eye.

Being drawn away from the stand side rail is not always the best spot when the ground is soft at Chantilly and the daughter of Aqlaam did well to get as close to the winner under Maxime Guyon, who gave her a single crack of the whip two out and then rode a mostly hands and heels finish.

Sunday was only Fashion Queen’s sixth career start, while O’Meara landed the Abbaye in 2014 with Move In Time having been beaten in this race three weeks earlier.

A change in the weather looks nigh-on essential if Satono Diamond is to be able to reproduce the very high-class form he consistently shows
E.W. Terms
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