09/09/2017 4:46PM

Decorated Knight goes last to first in Irish Champion


Decorated Knight was last of 10 horses at three furlongs from home but first across the finish Saturday at Leopardstown Racecourse in the Group 1, $1.5 million Irish Champion Stakes.

A chestnut horse of modest size, Decorated Knight unfurled an outsized kick under Andrea Atzeni to notch his third Group 1 win of 2017. In February, Decorated Knight won the Group 1 Jebel Hatta in Dubai, and in May he captured the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh.

Trainer Roger Charlton said Decorated Knight had excuses for two subpar performances in his most recent starts: Soft ground stymied him in the Juddmonte International, and Decorated Knight had a bumper-cars trip in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes.

Racing over good ground at his favored 1 1/4-mile distance Saturday, Decorated Knight lagged at the back of the pack before being produced on the far outside by Atzeni, cutting down all that stood between him and victory.

The Irish Champion is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race linked to the BC Turf, but Decorated Knight has never raced over the BC Turf’s 1 1/2-mile distance, and is more likely to run in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot as a final start this year.

Poet’s Voice finished second, beaten a half-length, and was followed by pace-setting Eminent. Churchill, the heavy favorite, raced behind horses, got bumped and stuck behind rivals a quarter-mile out, but had no late energy and checked in seventh.

Decorated Knight is by Galileo out of Pearling, by Storm Cat, and is owned by Saleh al Homaizi and Imad al Sagar. The 5-year-old horse’s eighth win from 18 starts was the most important of his career. Decorated Knight came to the U.S. last summer to start in the Arlington Million, but got loose in the barn the night before the race, suffered a cut, and had to be scratched. Things went much better for him this weekend in Ireland.

O’Brien longshot beats O’Brien favorite.

The star filly Winter had her four-race Group 1 winning streak snapped when her stablemate, Hydrangea, came back after being passed to win the Group 1 Matron Stakes earlier on the Leopardstown card by a head.

Winter appeared on the way to her fifth top-level win in a row when she came between horses in the final quarter-mile of the one-mile Matron, but Hydrangea, racing three paths off the fence and just outside Winter, kept grinding and grinding, and just before the wire got her head back down in front of the heavy favorite. Hydrangea was 20-1 with British bookmakers and 26-1 on the North American toteboard.

The Matron was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race, and Hydrangea, in addition to her first Group 1 win, earned an automatic fees-paid berth plus travel expenses to the BC Filly and Mare Turf. Hydrangea finished last of 14 last fall in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.

Winter had beaten Hydrangea six races in a row before the Matron, which was run on good-to-yielding ground that was far from radical. Who knows why the tables so suddenly turned, but Hydrangea was no doubt game Saturday, leading an Aidan O’Brien sweep of the top two placings. Persuasive was third, three-quarters of a length behind Winter.

Wayne Lordan rode Hydrangea, who is by Galielo out of Beauty is Truth, by Pivotal.

Nelson romps in Watson

Nelson led nearly all the way in the one-mile Willis Towers Watson Champion Juvenile Stakes and never came close to being threatened, posting a three-length victory under Donnacha O’Brien and leading a top-three sweep for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Nelson was followed home by Kew Gardens, who finished three-quarters of a length in front of favored Delano Roosevelt, who was ridden by Ryan Moore. Delano Roosevelt finished decently, but nobody came close to Nelson, who stayed on like a colt who will have little trouble negotiating longer trips in the future.

The race was part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series and Nelson earned an automatic fees-paid berth plus travel expenses to the BC Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.

Nelson, by Frankel out of the Dalakhani mare Moonstone, had finished sixth and third before winning a Leopardstown maiden race leading to this decisive tally.