Decorated Knight swoops for Irish Champion Stakes glory at Leopardstown
Decorated Knight pounced late to record a second Group One success in Ireland of the season when causing a 25-1 upset in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Roger Charlton's five-year-old had been beaten three times since lifting the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May, but he bounced back in spectacular fashion in the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece.
Andrea Atzeni gave him a patient ride, having him settled at the back of the field while a free-running Eminent set the pace from Success Days, with 8-11 favourite Churchill close up.
Eminent and Frankie Dettori still led approaching the final furlong, but he was being attacked on all sides and finally gave way.
Moonlight Magic threatened briefly, while Churchill was a little short of room on the rail.
The wide outside was the place to make a challenge and Decorated Knight made a decisive swoop. Poet's Word also put in a strong bid, but was half a length behind the winner at the line.
Eminent was a further length and three-quarters away in third place, in a 1-2-3 for British-trained runners.
Ryan Moore was easy on Aidan O'Brien's Churchill in the closing stages when his chance had gone and ended up finishing seventh, about four lengths behind the winner.
"Andrea said he knew he was going to win turning in. I couldn't believe it," said Charlton, whose charge also won the Dubai Turf at Meydan earlier in the year.
"He's tough, consistent and very sound. He produced an amazing turn of foot and ran right to the line. There was nothing flukey about it.
"He's been a bit unlucky in his last couple of races. He hated the ground at York, got bashed about at Sandown in the Eclipse and ran a great race at Royal Ascot.
"He's been on the go since March and he's improved and improved. To keep going all season is a tribute to the horse.
"I was half-thinking that this might be his last race. I guess we will now look at the Champion Stakes at Ascot."
He added: "Ireland has been very lucky for me with three Tattersalls Gold Cups, a Pretty Polly and now this."
Atzeni admitted his surprise at Decorated Knight's brilliant performance.
He said: "I still can't believe he's won it. We were coming in here with no pressure, as he was beaten the last twice.
"Last time he didn't handle the soft ground and today he looked a different horse in the paddock. He relaxed really nicely and picked up like a very good horse. I expected him to pick up, but didn't think he would pick up that well to go and win the race.
"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 picked them all up.
"I've being very lucky to ride some good horses in big races through my career and this is one of my special days.
"To be honest I didn't expect him to win today. I thought he might just run a big race. Maybe he was unlucky in the Eclipse when things didn't go right and the soft ground in the Juddmonte didn't suit.
"I just went out there with no pressure, left him alone for most of the race, pulled him out to see what he had left and he picked up well.
"That was always the plan because we knew there was going to be a lot of pace in the race. He had a bad draw and we didn't want to be caught wide, so we gave him a chance and put him to sleep.
"He's shown how good he is today and he could go anywhere now. He's already won three Group Ones."
Decorated Knight was slashed to 8-1 from 25-1 for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 21 with Ladbrokes and Betfair. RaceBets went 9-1 from 25-1.