07/01/2005 11:00PM

Oratorio pulls upset in Eclipse Stakes


Motivator fell prey to the late charge of Oratorio in a dramatic renewal of the $708,000 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park on Saturday.

The undefeated Epsom Derby winner and 2-5 favorite, Motivator appeared to take charge of the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 contest as he cruised to the lead under Johnny Murtagh at the quarter pole, but had no response to the 12-1 Oratorio, who blew by him at the 16th pole to record a comfortable half-length vcitory. The time for the 1 1/4 miles on good to firm ground was 2:07.00, or 4.9 seconds off Kalaglow's 1982 track record.

In truth, Murtagh gave Motivator a rather injudicious ride. Finding himself on an unwanted lead from the start, Murtagh was continually looking over his shoulder for someone to take over. Hazyview did so after a half with Motivator under a tight hold as Oratorio was already being pushed along to keep pace in third. When Motovator retook the lead he looked briefly like a real champion, only to have Oratorio cut him down. Altieri was 2-1/2 lengths further back in third, the ex-Australian Starcraft was sixth, while Diamond Green was a well beaten last after having loomed large approaching the quarter pole. The absence, however, of Shamardal, who was retired with an ankle injury on Friday, cast something of a pall over the general proceedings.

A 3-year-old son of Danehill, Oratorio had won the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at two, but was only fourth in the 2000 Guineas on April 30. In the Epsom Derby he had finished 25 lengths behind Motivator in tenth, so clearly the Eclipse represents a massive reversal of form.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien might now drop Oratorio back to a mile for the the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 27. Motivator will seek redemption in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury on July 23 at the Derby distance of 1 1/2 miles.

*Frankie Dettori, who would have ridden Shamardal in the Eclipse, lost a subsequent race assignment aboard Altieri when he suffered a fall from Celtic Mill in the 5-furlong Group 3 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Sprint Stakes. Dettori was taken to the hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken collarbone.

*Playful Act, the winter favorite for the English Oaks but unsighted since her victory in the Group 1 Fillies Mile last September, returned to the races with a narrow victory in the 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock Park on Saturday. The 11-4 John Gosden-trained daughter of Sadler's Wells prevailed by a head from Hidden Hope and could go next in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh on July 17.