07/02/2005 12:00AM

Oratorio upsets Motivator in Eclipse


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 he had no response to the 12-1 Oratorio, who blew by him at the sixteenth pole to record a comfortable half-length victory. 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.

Murtagh found himself on an unwanted lead with Motivator, 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 Motivator retook the lead, he looked briefly like a real champion, only to have Oratorio cut him down. Altieri was 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third, the ex-Australian Starcraft was sixth, while Diamond Green was last after having loomed large approaching the quarter pole.

Shamardal, the French Derby winner, had been expected to battle Motivator in a battle of derby winners, but he was retired with an ankle injury on Friday.

A 3-year-old son of Danehill, Oratorio had won the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at 2, but was only fourth in the 2000 Guineas on April 30. In the Epsom Derby he had finished 25 lengths behind Motivator in 10th, 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 fell from Celtic Mill in the Group 3 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Sprint Stakes on Saturday. Dettori was taken to the hospital for X-rays on a suspected broken collarbone.

* Playful Act, the winter favorite for the English Oaks but unraced 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.